Within weeks after Robin, a Navy Veteran, arrived at Liberty Hall, his help made a big difference in continuing the operations of the gym at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Batavia, NY.
Since Liberty Hall’s opening in 2011, Cazenovia Recovery Systems, Inc. has helped hundreds of homeless Veterans who are in recovery from substance use. The program supports the Veterans’ mental health and physical well-being, integrates VA services, and links to medical care, counseling, and other opportunities.
Partnering with the Batavia VA, Cazenovia Recovery initiated the first position for the facility’s Incentive Therapy (IT) Program after the gym had been closed for months in 2015. IT offers participants paid work for completing on-campus tasks. Ever since, Liberty Hall Veterans have helped to keep the gym open.
Robin works mornings as a monitor at the gym Monday through Friday. He is proud to help the VA, which had closed the gym because it did not have enough employees to staff it. He is happy that fellow Vets who live on campus as well as others from the community who receive VA services come in to use the workout equipment and socialize.
“I open up each day and make sure that people sign in and out,” he said. “I’m also in charge of the alarm system.” He stepped up, he said, because, “I’ve been sober since August and I figured I was ready. Working keeps me focused.”
Angela Angora, site supervisor, agrees. “The IT program makes a huge difference,” she said. “It gives our residents structure and purpose. It puts them in leadership roles. Here they are responsible for the gym.” Working with the VA vocational specialist to get the IT position started, she noted another benefit is that the new work experience can be added to resumes when residents leave the program and prepare to move forward.
For Robin, that goal is moving back to Warsaw, NY, where he has a large extended and “really supportive” family.
Robin and fellow Liberty Hall residents hope that the VA will continue to support IT’s paid opportunities to learn work skills. This collaborative endeavor is proving its value to individuals and to the VA Center.