Mission: Veterans Inc.'s mission is to help veterans re-gain control of their lives so we can eliminate homelessness among veterans. In many cases, Veterans Inc. actually saves lives, as our clients tell us time and again. We aim to remain a leading provider of services that improve the lives of veterans and their families by providing the highest quality services; and continuing to create new opportunities in the areas of health, employment and housing.
Philosophy: Veterans Inc. operates according to the philosophy that veterans have earned the respect and gratitude of our nation and that in return, Veterans Inc. shall provide them with whatever services are needed. Our philosophy is summed up with the phrase:
They were there when we needed them. We must be there now that they need us.
Values: Veterans Inc. pledges the total commitment of its resources to veterans and their families, by providing:
- Direct services or referral to all veterans and/or their families who request assistance
- Emergency assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- A tireless effort to find housing, both transitional and permanent, to homeless veterans and those at risk of being homeless
- Job enhancement skills, job search skills and individually advanced training for improved employment opportunities
- Advocacy on a local, state and national level to help address the needs of the veteran population
- Reminders to our country's civilian members of the sacrifices that veterans have made so that all could live free.
History: In 1990, a small "band of brothers", Vietnam veterans, alarmed at seeing their fellow veterans living in alleys and under bridges, incorporated Veterans Inc. (then the Central Massachusetts Shelter for Homeless Veterans). In October 1991, the group received the keys to the historic Massachusetts National Guard Armory from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with a contract to lease the building for a dollar per year. Abandoned for about 12 years, the building had been condemned and was slated for demolition. In four months, the veterans collected $17,000 in cash donations and, with the help of volunteers including labor unions, completed $250,000 worth of renovations.
With an all-volunteer staff, the doors opened to nine homeless Vietnam veterans on January 20, 1992. The building was still in such bad shape that only a small section of the first floor was used. The utilities were non-functioning, the windows blown out, walls had collapsed and the roof was pierced by huge holes. Rumor has it that every pigeon in the City of Worcester lived at 69 Grove Street. But these humble living conditions were better than the alternative for many.
As the first years passed, Veterans Inc. repaired the building a little at a time. Most of the work was performed by the residents and volunteers. An estimated $5 million in volunteer and donated services has been invested over the past 20 years to rescue the historic building and expand services for veterans.
In 1993, Lt. Colonel Vincent J. Perrone was named president of the organization, a position he still holds today. He recruited Board member Denis Leary (former director of the Substance Abuse Center at Community Healthlink), and the two lifelong friends took the fledgling organization from $100,000 in debt to operating in the black in less than a year.
They expanded the agency's focus to include veterans of all eras, and women veterans. In fact, Veterans Inc. was the first facility in the nation to offer in-house services to female veterans (in 1994).
Soon after assuming leadership of the organization, Vin and Denis realized that a 30-day "alcohol and substance free" emergency shelter – even if it put a roof over the veterans' heads and food in their stomachs – was not enough to keep veterans off the streets.
First of all, homelessness couldn't be solved if the veterans had no income. Some veterans moved out only to end up back at the shelter. So the Employment & Training program was created, including partnerships with employers that resulted in better jobs.
Furthermore, if mental health support was not provided, or physical rehabilitation, the veterans often couldn't hold jobs, or adapt to living on their own after leaving the shelter. So Health & Wellness services were added.
This "triangle of needs" – housing, employment and health – evolved into a comprehensive program of supportive services that addressed the myriad of issues veterans contend with. This model was developed and refined over the years into the nationally recognized clinical model employed at Veterans Inc. today.
This holistic approach entails providing every possible service, from legal advice to disability benefit applications, all under the auspices of a case manager, who works with every veteran to create a treatment plan tailored to that individual's strengths and challenges.
In 2009, the organization was re-named Veterans Inc. in recognition of its new program in Vermont and its imminent plans to expand into other neighboring states. The grassroots, all-volunteer operation of 1990 has grown into a professional, comprehensive, award-winning organization that provides care to thousands of veterans and their families every year.