Habitat Newburgh Veterans Build
Theresa Pittman-Porter outside her new home, with her husband Samuel and twin daughters, Natasha and Latasha. (Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity)

by Jac Bergenson

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh dedicated its first Veterans Build to Army veteran Theresa Pittman-Porter. Pittman-Porter, who served from 1980 to 1986, will move into the house at 41 East Parmenter Street with her husband Samuel and her twin daughters Natasha and Latasha.

The dedication ceremony featured Colonel Barbara K. Sherer, chaplain, and cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point, just 15 miles from Mount Saint Mary College. Representatives from the Home Depot Foundation, which donated $10,000 toward this build, also participated in the dedication.

Mount students were actively involved in the build. Executive Director Cathy Collins states that the chapter “is very involved,” and that she looks “forward to strengthening and expanding our relationship with the College to serve more families and to help spread the joy of being of service.

Veterans Build is a national initiative of Habitat for Humanity International to provide housing solutions and volunteer opportunities to veterans and current military members, as well as their families.

“Our plan is to dedicate a Veteran Build at least every two years,” said Collins. “With adequate funding and interest from the veteran community we would be happy to be doing it once a year.

Many returning veterans do not earn enough to purchase a median priced home and some do not earn enough to afford rent for a typical two-bedroom apartment. More than 1.5 million veteran households pay more than 50% of their income for housing, a severe burden on their families.

With help from organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, though, displaced veterans have a reason to look forward to the future. According to USA Today, the number of homeless veterans fell 24% from 2007 to 2013, and the number of chronically homeless people decreased 25% over the same time period. That said, 57,850 homeless veterans were still reported in 2013.