You may have never heard of Veterans Place, a non-profit organization on Washington Boulevard in Pittsburgh. Their mission is a simple one: strive to end homelessness among veterans, which is an epidemic of proportions beyond what the general public understands. If I might get up on a soapbox for a bit, the US has never done as much for veterans as they should with respect to helping them re-integrate into society from a war zone or that station.
A housing facility that cost $2.5 million, Veterans Place is one of many institutions around the country that strive to pick up the slack that the government leaves behind it through a variety of means. Homelessness being one of the greatest threats that veterans face, what they offer is crucial in my estimation.
One veteran just spent the weekend helping to make the lives of others better, as Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva in partnership with the team and Heinz Field surprised those living at the town house facility with new televisions and refrigerators, common commodities we take for granted that many of those in poverty might lack.
“Just to be able to understand and walk in another veteran’s shoes, so you can empathize and sympathize, it means everything”, said the executive director of the facility, Marlon Ferguson. “They’re sending a clear message to the veterans that you are not forgotten, and you do matter and we’re all part of this big veteran family and here to help each other”.
Villanueva spent his life between college and the pros serving in the military, with much of that time as an Army Ranger in combat. He is a decorated veteran of war among so many other things, but he has striven to use his recent successes on the gridiron to pay it forward to his brothers in arms. This is but one of many actions he has taken in that regard.
In typical fashion, he doesn’t appear to have gone on record in giving any interviews about his participation in this event. He tends to prefer not to draw attention to himself in spite of the fact that he has always proven to be reasoned and well-spoken.
KDKA did speak to one veteran who was visited by the Steelers’ left tackle, however, and was tremendously grateful. “Every day seems to get better, with people like that caring about the veterans, it’s very much appreciated”, Kevin Geil said. Geil is also an Army veteran.
“What I’ve been through, because I lost everything, and being homeless and stuff, and with people that care”, he said, it “has been tremendous” to receive the help and compassion that he has gotten from the Veterans Group and others.
The inspiration behind Veterans Place was a man named Sidney Singer, whose dying wish it was to see it established. You can read the story behind that from a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article written at the time of his death in 2010.