By Kaylee Lindenmuth | firstname.lastname@example.org
SHENANDOAH - Monday evening, its windows are boarded up, but a Shenandoah Borough Council vote will help a charity organization renovate a home on the west end to help combat homelessness among veterans.
Council approved at their monthly meeting Monday evening the forgiveness of tax and municipal liens against 316 West Lloyd Street to allow We Agape You, Inc., to rehabilitate the home and donate it to a veteran in need. The Shenandoah Valley School District did the same last May. The forgiveness will allow the current property owner to donate the home free-and-clear.
Reverend Randolph Simmons, president of We Agape You, Inc., spoke to council about his organization, its mission, and its plans in Shenandoah.
"What we do is prevent 22 veterans' suicides per day through employment and housing created from house donations," said Simmons. "What we do, basically, is create employment. We hire, within the county, contractors, and veterans come in and assist with cleanouts and so forth."
Simmons said the group helps not only veterans but also the needy, though veterans are their primary focus. The group hopes to turn around three houses every year.
"Disabled veterans who can't work help make lunches for those who can work," said Simmons. "It's a great program at no cost to you guys and we alleviate blight."
Simmons said that those who work with the program are paid "dues" per day, and in 30 days without missing a day, they are guaranteed a place to stay, 60 a car, and 90 employment.
"It's really huge for people who come work with us," said Simmons. "They know I'm no tolerance. There is no justification or excuse to miss work a day unless you let us know way in advance. We've had people that were homeless veterans and needy who were sleeping under bridges, sleeping in tent cities, and within 90 days, they have a job and a house. That's what our program is. Our target is veterans, because this 22 [suicides] a day, no, one is too many."
"I'd like to commend you for bringing that program to the borough," said council President Leo Pietkiewicz prior to the unanimous vote in favor.
Regarding the timeline as to when the home at 316 West Lloyd will be rehabilitated, Simmons said "we have to get in there and see what all needs to be done before we can make that determination, but as soon as we get in there, we're going to get it done ASAP."
Simmons added that the rehabilitation will help the borough by returning the home to the tax rolls and provide revenue for municipal services.
According to the group's website, their mission "is to mimic Christ's agape love in serving the members of our community without discrimination. We address what must be in place to heal a person's mind, body, and spirit through housing and employment services for veterans and needy."
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