Homeless Veterans at Community Hope For Veterans claim Patient Abuse, Harassment, Threats of Discharge for Filing Legitimate Complaints.

by Terry Richards

Community Hope For Veterans Transitional Housing Program, located at the VA New Jersey Healthcare Campus in Lyons NJ a Program of Community Hope, Inc., a VA Funded Non-Profit Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ.
LYONS, NJ –  Over the last 3-months this Veterans Blog has received numerous complaints by Veterans Residing at Community Hope for Veterans in Lyons, New Jersey that they are being verbally and emotionally abused, harassed, and being threatened with discharge by Community Hope For Veterans Staff for complaining about and disputing the unlawful rent being charged, reverse discrimination in obtaining Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) Jobs, and the failure of Staff to provide them with HUD-VASH Section 8 Permanent Housing Vouchers, among other things.
UPDATE ON CWT DISPUTE                                                                                                                   CWT (Compensated Work Therapy) wages not barred from being considered income for rent purposes                                                          https://vnsla.com/2015/06/14/cwt4rent/

Veterans at the Community Hope for Veterans, who receives $43.32 per day under the VA’s Grant and Per Diem Program for operating a Temporary Housing Program (THP) at 151 Knollcroft Rd Bldg 53 Lyons New Jersey 07939 have been asking staff there at the corporate level questions about the Housing Fee which they refer to as the Service Fee also referred to as Rent, “which depends on how they can take your MONEY is the way they Put it to us” Veterans told this Columnist.

Vets say they have been “dealing with Staff since January, even a little before that they said which is when Vets started to talk about all this and uncovered true facts that things are not as they appear to be” Veterans said.

Vets received a printout of the Federal Guidelines that the CEO of Community Hope Incorporated Michael Armstrong must abide and presented it to both Jenny (Last name unknown) and Ray Diaz  who then battered one of the Vets with threats of Discharge and then called the VA police and the Middlesex county police who also responded. Six (6) Police Officers in all heard the Vet ask for in writing what she is asserting that CWT is counted as income. The said printout says that CWT (Compensated Work Therapy) is absolutely not counted as income along with Welfare, SSI and ITP.

Pay in Vets’ Work Program Ruled Tax-Free!!! 

Ruling on Compensated Work Therapy Retroactive Three Years                                                 http://www.veteranprograms.com/id216.html

Read the Final Ruling for all VA Grant and Per Diem Temporary Housing Programs for Homeless Veterans                                    https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/02/25/2013-04222/va-homeless-providers-grant-and-per-diem-program

Vets say they asked the police to take a note about the fact that their mail was being tampered with but Police said they would not take their complaint because the postal inspector already is investigating their complaints.

One former Veteran-Resident made the following allegations about some of the wrongful acts and omissions against Veteran-Resident-“Participants” of Community Hope For Veterans:

“The HUD-VASH issue here is very problematic.  First, they do everything in secret.  Second, they lie about the program.  They claim not to have any vouchers and say they are not accepting applications.  Then, after persistent inquiries, they ‘admit’ to having 26 vouchers for the 2014 cycle but omit the fact that they have 49 ‘project’ based vouchers. 

NJ basically gets 75 vouchers per cycle.  They received more in past years but being a poor performing state in terms of leasing rates, they no longer get vouchers awarded in the numbers they need.  NJ got 1,090 vouchers since 2008 according to the best data I could find.  Since NJ has a lease out rate of 65% or less and figuring in the numbers (national averages) for negative and positive drop out rates, they should have a pile of vouchers on hand.  They don’t admit to having any unleased vouchers but they are certainly doing something with some of them.  We only see them lease out a few here and there and Lyons is where that happens.  We get guys from all the shelters and housing facilities statewide and we would know if they are dropping anywhere else.  They are not.  A few random guys coming into the domiciliary get them and we had about five drop here in the past month and a half.  The project based vouchers are getting used to keep Community Hope’s project, “Valley Brook” filled.  But, as you know, project based vouchers do not port.  

I cannot get past the receptionist upstairs to speak with a HUD-VASH manager and they refuse to accept my application, yet I have witnessed them taking applications (pre-screenings) from well-dressed men I have never seen on this campus and witnessed the receptionist explaining the pre-screening process to someone on the phone while I waited to see someone on other business.  It is common knowledge on this campus that you need to “know” someone to get a voucher.  My psych suggested that I use her name and said, “sometimes you have to do what you have to do”.  My VA liaison, Marilyn Mastrello, said she has, “nothing for me”.  I obviously don’t “know” the right people.  I have called the national homeless hot line and several other guys have also called.  I suspect that is the reason they are awarding the few vouchers we have seen recently.  One of the guys who called got a voucher.  Quite a few guys are coming close to the two year mark and have no housing options lined up.  And nobody is helping them.  

The most troublesome thing about all this is the complete lack of honest communication.  Everyone here understands that these things take time, but we also understand that HUD-VASH isn’t the freaking Manhattan project.  I cannot conjure up any legitimate reason for the deception and lies.  Which leads me to conclude they are not legit.  Somehow, they are dirty.    

The Community Hope staff do next to nothing to help with housing.  My ‘case manager’ gave me a two county list of housing offices and suggested that I call one at random per week and see what happens.  I tried hard not to laugh at her.  Section eight is fairly complicated yet I am researching it and I receive email alerts about waiting lists around the country.  However, I still await word on my SSI, SSDI and service connected claims.  Section eight requires an income, so I am stuck for now.  

 The sum and substance of this place seems to be about farming homeless veterans for the funding.  The state administered facility called Vet Haven North in Glen Gardner, NJ acts as a holding pen for vets.  Vet Haven also takes CWT money for rent.  When Community Hope needs a few, Vet Haven sends them.  When a guy uses his two year stint here, they send him to Vet Haven and after 6 to 12 months, they send him back.  Community Hope prefers vets with incomes.  My therapist had to come here at least twice to get me in.  She called that experience, “interesting”.    

 I could get deeper on this topic but you have stuff to do.   One last thing.  On the topic of housing, the local congressman’s VA liaison, “Bobbi” never responded to that portion of my complaint.  Total silence.  Merck, the drug company, is the congressman’s main corporate contributor and the main corporate donor for Community Hope and Merck funds the “free” legal clinic for vets called the Veteran’s Justice Initiative located in the local legal aid office.  The VA is a huge drug distributor and the PTSD program here uses experimental drugs.  This place seems to be sewed up tight, so I understand why they are so arrogant”.

Writer’s Note: On Monday evening of June 01, 2015, this Writer left a voice-mail message for Melissa Sheppard, Quality Assurance Specialist, Community Hope , Inc., 959 Route 46 East, Suite 402, Parsippany NJ 07054, and for Shannon Lengares Program Coordinator and Anthony Oaks Director of Community Hope For Veterans, 151 Knollcroft RD Bldg 53 Lyons, NJ 07939, asking them to respond to the allegations made by Veterans in this story by 1:00pm EDT, Tuesday, June 02, 2015, but none of them responded at the time this story was Published which was well after 5:00pm EDT.