For veterans returning from battle, sometimes the trip home includes a few bumps in the road. Organizations like Saratoga County's Guardian House help ease that transition. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, they're now calling on the public to help them assist even more vets in need.
BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. – "To just come back and get back into society, it's a little harder,” said Maggie Kenworthy, a retired Air Force veteran. “Nobody really knows, you don't say anything and somehow you get lost in the shuffle."
When Kenworthy's four-year Air Force career ended in 1989, her return home to Saratoga County brought with it many struggles.
"After I got out I had a lot of death in my family,” said Kenworthy, who grew up in Clifton Park. “I had struggles with no structure and I ended up becoming an alcoholic."
Kenworthy's addiction eventually got the best of her. After what she calls "six years of sleeping on couches," she checked into rehab in 2010. The following summer, she ended up at the Guardian House in Ballston Spa, a center for homeless female veterans.
"This house is the foundation for me to go out and get back on my feet," said Kenworthy, who became the house’s first-ever resident.
When the Guardian House first opened its doors nearly two years ago, it was just the second home of its kind in New York State. To date, nearly 20 women have come to stay at the home in hopes of getting their life on track.
"Veterans, in general, tend to be twice as likely to become homeless,” said Budd Mazurek, the Guardian House’s executive director. “Female veterans are four times more likely to become homeless versus our civilian counterparts."
Hoping to reach more of the at least 200 homeless vets in the Capital Region, the Saratoga County Rural Preservation Company, which runs the house, has entered Home Depot's $25,000 "Aprons in Action" contest, with plans to turn an unused garage on the property into a pantry, counseling area and handicap accessible bedroom.
"Some of these women will be here up to two years,” Mazurek said. “This is their home and we try to make it as home friendly as possible."
For Kenworthy, who's nearly three years sober and in school to become a chemical dependency counselor, winning the contest would mean more women would get the same opportunities that saved her life.
"For me personally, it's just the fact that there are people out there who recognize we are female veterans and we are in need," Kenworthy said.
Voting for the grant contest is done through Facebook and ends Friday. To vote, visit https://apps.facebook.com/apronsinaction/#!/apronsinaction/.