Katie Doherty said she did not think she deserved the dedication but was happy to accept it on behalf of the women who work for Soldier On and the women they serve.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Soldier On supporters and stakeholders toured the Katie Doherty Veterans Village on Friday afternoon that is slated to be move-in ready in early February.
Soldier On knows the importance of having a home and with the near completion of the village for women veterans this sentiment will be accessible to all who have served in the military, not just the men.
"I was so compelled by the women I met and so compelled by their stories and what had happened to them," Soldier On consultant Katie Doherty said during a small gathering before the tour. "I thought we could do something to help them and restore them to the positions that they deserve."
Construction began on the 14-unit structure in March 2019 near the existing men's permanent housing community. The units average 457 square feet and have a fully equipped kitchen, an open living space, a bedroom and a full shower.
Soldier On CEO Bruce Buckley said for much of the organization's history, it has focused on supporting homeless male veterans. Although it ushered in female programming and support, it was not equitable to what was offered to male veterans.
He said it was only when Doherty came on board in 2012 that it was truly able to provide women veterans the support they deserved
"We were pretty much only a male supportive group and we realized that we were missing some of who we should be serving and how we should be serving that group," he said. "We tried it in different variants to start a female veterans programs but until Katie came on board, it really wasn't going anywhere."
Doherty said she was hired to strengthen the program and when she met some of the women veterans she was inspired. She said their stories motivated her to take a deep dive and truly help shape a program that is one of a kind.
She continued to expand the program and added a trauma-informed care and holistic wellness approach to the program.
She was happy to say there were no roadblocks from management and whenever she brought up a new program or new concept, she was totally supported.
Permanent housing for women was an obvious milestone for the program that would have great impacts on homeless women veterans moving out of the transitionary housing, however, actually building the village originally seemed unattainable.
But with Soldier On's backing, it became a reality.
"I never heard 'no,' I only heard 'yes,' so this whole thing as I see it is a testament to when women say what they need and women voice their needs, they are respected," she said. "When women say what they want and it is heard, this is what can happen."
The new housing is for those capable of living independently but are in need of affordable housing. The occupant pays a subsidized rent and Soldier On covers utilities and other amenities.
Also, supportive services are readily available.
Buckley said a permanent home is so important for everyone but especially those most vulnerable who may not have a support system in place.
"For folks who don't have that network, we became that network the best we could and permanent housing really becomes the solution," he said. "The housing is great, they are beautiful, but it really is the community that is where the success comes from."
Buckley also announced a partnership with the Police Department that will extend its patch fundraising program to Soldier On.
Officer Darren Derby said five patches representing each branch of the military can be purchased for $10. He said a decision was made to cover the cost of manufacturing the patches so 100 percent of the proceeds will go to Soldier On.
"We are excited to sell these and we have another 500 coming so in total there are 1,000 patches we want to sell in the next month," he said. "One hundred percent of the proceeds will come here."
Patches can be purchased at the police station. Derby said patches will also be mailed.
After the presentation, the group toured the facility that is quickly nearing completion with veterans ready to move in.
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