by Matt Shortall
Sullivan Co. Democrat: Congressman tours BATS home for veterans, Matt Shortall
LIBERTY — Representative John Faso was in the Village of Liberty on Tuesday to tour the BATS house (Begin Again Transitional Services).
BATS is a non-profit initiative that was founded to assist veterans who are homeless or in some kind of housing crisis.
“I’m impressed with the spiritual purpose of the pastor and his parishioners,” said Rep. Faso. “They’re meeting a need that exists throughout the Hudson Valley, and having a transitional housing space available for veterans in Sullivan County is very important.”
The BATS house on Dixon Avenue first opened in 2016 to service transitioning veterans in Sullivan County.
It was made possible through a USDA grant and the generosity of dozens of local businesses who donated materials and services.
“We noticed that there was nothing here in Sullivan County that was housing veterans,” said BATS Vice Chair Anthony Covington. “There might be some services for veterans, but there’s no housing.”
Covington estimates that operating the BATS house costs around $75,000 a year, much of which comes from their annual fundraiser.
Pastor Norman Graves said BATS can house up to eight veterans at a time. “We’re a self-help program for veterans trying to transition back into civilian life,” Pastor Graves explained. “We’ve had veterans who require a more in-patient housing, and we help them to find a place that has those facilities.”
Kevin Evans is a veteran and Liberty native currently residing at the BATS house.
“I was diagnosed with PTSD last year,” Evans explained. “These guys (Covington and Pastor Graves) greeted me with open arms and gave me a foundation to start from again. This place is truly a blessing.”
Faso pledged to speak with the VA to see about bringing more resources to veterans in rural communities.
“Obviously they could use some assistance with staffing to make sure that they’re not just relying on volunteers. That’s something that we’ll talk to the VA about,” Rep. Faso said. “Money is tight, but we’re hopeful that we can be of help.”
The BATS for Veterans Silent Auction will take place at the Eagle’s Nest on Friday, April 20 at 6 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to attend and help support transitional services for returning veterans.