A 30-bed transitional-housing program in Camden isn't going to solve the homeless problem among military veterans at a time when a national survey has found tens of thousands of them need help.
But the Home for the Brave, a proposed facility that Volunteers of America Delaware Valley would operate, is part of a federal strategy to drive down those numbers.
The veterans "have sacrificed far more than we can ever repay," said Dan Lombardo, president and chief executive officer of Volunteers of America Delaware Valley in Collingswood.
"It is only right that we give them every tool necessary to live self-fulfilled lives," he said. "This program is intended to rebuild their lives one step at a time."
The number of veterans who were homeless on any given night declined from 76,300 in 2010 to about 67,500 in 2011, according to the most recent survey by the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development.
With programs such as the one in Camden, VA officials said they hoped to reduce the number to 35,000 by the end of fiscal 2013.
New Jersey has about 7,000 homeless veterans, state officials said.
Groundbreaking for the $2.1 million Home for the Brave is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday in the 200 block of Atlantic Avenue, next to the VOA's Aletha R. Wright "Vision of Hope" Center, a transitional-living facility. It is expected to be completed in early fall.
To further help vets, Gov. Christie also plans to increase access to transitional housing and care with the opening of Veterans Haven North, in partnership with Freedom House, a long-term, residential drug- and alcohol-treatment facility on the grounds of the Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital in Glen Gardner, Hunterdon County.
"We're launching an effort that continues to honor the commitment of the brave men and women who have worn our nation's uniform by providing them the support they need to get on their feet and be successful," Christie said Wednesday.
The effort will expand the Veterans Haven program run by the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs at a facility in Winslow Township, Camden County. That program has helped nearly 1,000 since it started in 1995, providing transitional housing as well as psychological, social, and vocational rehabilitation.
The $2.3 million project - to be paid for with state and federal money - will support about 50 veterans.
"I believe we can all agree that the words homeless and veteran should never be said in the same breath," Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff, acting adjutant general of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said Wednesday.
"Expanding the reach of our service . . . will ensure that all homeless New Jersey veterans are afforded the care and assistance they deserve," he said.
In Camden, about 60 veterans will be served over the course of the year at the Home for the Brave, said Rebecca Fuller, a VOA spokeswoman. More than $400,000 has been provided for the program, Fuller said.
Grants have come from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the state Department of Community Affairs, local banks, and donations.
Programs such as the VOA's provide housing and other support services to 32,000 vets across the nation. The proposed VA budget for fiscal 2013 includes nearly $1.4 billion for programs to help prevent or reduce homelessness among veterans, officials said.
The Home for the Brave "is the culmination of years of planning and fund-raising knowing that it was imperative that our veterans get the services they need and truly deserve," Lombardo said.