Metro

Boston homeless veterans center to get $31m upgrade

New England Center for Homeless Veterans assists more than 1,500 people annually, according to its president and chief executive, Andy McCawley.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File

New England Center for Homeless Veterans assists more than 1,500 people annually, according to its president and chief executive, Andy McCawley.

Homeless veterans in Boston and surrounding communities will have better access to improved living accommodations, transitional services, and vocational programs, as a center dedicated to helping them begins work on a multimillion-dollar renovation downtown.

On Wednesday, the New England Center for Homeless Veterans will break ground on the $31 million, 18-month construction project to provide state-of-the art resources for its clients.

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“The building is showing its age, so we are creating a facility that can be adaptable for veterans for decades to come,” said Andy McCawley, president and chief executive of the Court Street center. “These upgrades will get people into housing faster and more effectively, and offer a full array of services like case management support, vocational training, employment services, and wellness services.”

The project should be complete by the end of next year, said McCawley, a retired Navy officer, and will help aid the more than 1,500 homeless vets that the center assists annually.

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“Most veterans are very successful, and are a great asset to our society, and we want to make sure every veteran has an opportunity for that same success,” he said of the upgrades.

The project is being funded through public partnerships and the use of federal, state, and city dollars. A portion of the funding is also coming from private donors and foundations including the Life Initiative, a state-backed program that provides capital for projects that benefit low-income communities.

The reconstruction work will not disrupt the center’s current operations or living situations, McCawley said.

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The renovation project will include adding 200 transitional housing units and 38 permanent housing units to the center, as well as upgrades to the 59 permanent living spaces already in use.

It will also lead to the opening of the Veterans Training School and more clinical and community support services.

Men make up most homeless veterans, according to a 2013 state report, but increasingly female veterans are at risk. To help offset this problem, McCawley said, the renovated building will feature an entire floor dedicated to units providing services for female veterans.

“The veteran population in our city is very diverse, and we need to be able to provide tailored and individualized services to them. We have seen an increase, and we want to provide the best and most effective opportunities for our female veterans,” McCawley said.

The project dovetails with an initiative headed by Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office last year seeking more living spaces for Boston’s veterans.

Walsh said in a statement Tuesday that the New England Center for Homeless Veterans serves as a beacon of hope for those struggling to find educational, medical, and housing opportunities.

“Sustainable, independent living requires support at every level. And that’s what this center is going to do for more veterans than ever before, every step of the way,” Walsh said. “From providing nighttime shelter to transitional housing to permanent housing — they are accommodating every kind of need.”

‘Most veterans are very successful, and are a great asset . . . and we want to make sure every veteran has an opportunity for that same success.’

Andy McCawley, New England Center for Homeless Veterans president, on his facility’s renovation project 
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Along with Walsh and McCawley, state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, state Representative Aaron Michlewitz, US Representative Stephen Lynch, and Governor Charlie Baker are scheduled to attend Wednesday’s groundbreaking.

“After all our veterans and their families have sacrificed for others, it is up to us to ensure they are cared for, supported, and have a roof over their head,” Baker said in a statement. “This public-private partnership is essential to our mission, giving homeless veterans safe shelter, and ultimately supporting their return to sustainable, affordable housing.”

Steven Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.
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