Colonel David Sutherland, Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Piquette Square for Veterans recently and came away deeply impressed with the facility.
“I applaud what is being done here,” Colonel Sutherland told a group of Piquette veterans that met with him after he toured the building on Friday, October 15. “This is the gold standard of meeting the needs of veterans.”
In his role as Special Assistant to Admiral Mike Mullen, Colonel Sutherland’s principal focus is to support the needs of veterans and their families. Sutherland is visiting all 50 states to encourage cooperation among veteran-serving organizations in communities. Sutherland said that there are about 400,000 organizations in the country that support military men and women.
“We know there is a basic desire across the nation to help our veterans,” Sutherland said at Piquette Square. “The challenge is how to connect that desire to individual needs. We must pull all our fragmented efforts together at the community level and create a powerful system of support.”
Meeting with Southwest Solutions’ staff, Sutherland praised the public/private partnership that underlies the Piquette Square model. Steve Gabrys, Real Estate Development Director at Southwest Housing Solutions, told Sutherland that the Piquette model of gathering diverse partners and strong community support can and should be replicated in other communities seeking to help veterans rebuild their lives through the kind of quality housing and comprehensive support services provided at Piquette.
The $23 million Piquette Square project opened in June and is home to 150 formerly homeless veterans. Southwest Solutions developed, owns and manages the facility.
The Piquette veterans who met with Sutherland expressed their gratitude for the building. “I feel very fortunate to be here,” said Dan Carey. “But I also feel guilty about all the other veterans who are still living on the streets and who are not getting the care they need and deserve.”
Sutherland told the veterans that taking care of those who served their country is a “national security issue, because if we continue to have problems with veterans not receiving the services they need, who will want to join the military and defend our nation?”
Sutherland reiterated a pledge by General Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to end homelessness among veterans within five years.
“We cannot and will not tolerate another generation of homeless veterans,” Sutherland said.
There are an estimated 107,000 veterans who are homeless on any given night in America, Sutherland said. This number, however, is inexact, Sutherland continued, because only 49% of veterans are enrolled in VA services and so many are falling through the cracks without being counted.
“Communities must recognize that the VA cannot solve everything,” Sutherland told the Piquette veterans. “We must all come together. You veterans have the capacity for greatness. It is the community that will help you realize that.”
Colonel Sutherland’s visit to Piquette was facilitated by Al Opra from the UAW Region 1 Veterans Committee.