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Camden County in Pennsylvania opens housing for homeless vets

They served in the military, sometimes in battlefields on the other side of the world. But many of them returning to civilian life weren't able to find jobs or afford homes.

Helping those veterans start new lives is the goal of a new Camden County program providing temporary housing at the Lakeland Complex in Gloucester Township.

The Freeholder Board will open three new one-bedroom cottages at 11:30 a.m. Monday on North Woodbury-Turnersville Road.

They "will provide veterans with a suitable place to live until they find a permanent home," said Freeholder Deputy Director Ed McDonnell, liaison to the Camden County Office of Veterans Affairs. "Our veterans have given so much to this country, the very least we can do is give them a place to live.

"Far too many of our nation's veterans are homeless," he said.

About 58,000 veterans across the nation were identified as homeless in 2013, said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That represents a drop of nearly 20,000 from 2010 because of transitional housing programs such as the one at the Lakeland Complex.

Monday's opening ceremony will be attended by McDonnell, Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr., State Sen. James Beach (D., Camden), and Gloucester Township Mayor David Mayer.

Service members "have come home from conflicts, been discharged, and have no place to go," county spokesman Dan Keashen said. "The county's cottages are like bungalows. They have all the amenities a normal home would have," he said.

The site is close to the Camden County Veterans Affairs Office and Army Reserve Center, where former service members can receive services. It's also a brief walk from a NJ Transit bus stop for transportation to other services.

"Our Camden County Veterans Affairs Office has been recognized for the outstanding work they do for our military men and women," McDonnell said. "This is another way our Veterans Affairs staff can assist the veterans that they serve."

The Volunteers of America will select the veterans to temporarily live in the cottages as part of an overall effort to help the homeless get back into the community.

The project will cost $40,000, officials said. Camden County received a $25,000 grant from Norwescap Inc., a New Jersey nonprofit that works to create affordable housing. It will also seek an additional $15,000 for the group.

ecolimore@phillynews.com

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