As the CEO of MHA of Dutchess County, a not-for profit organization in serving people in both Dutchess and Orange County I am disheartened and appalled by the numerous lies, the cover-ups, and the grab for headlines by using not only our homeless individuals, but by using our veterans.
When news broke in the New York Post, that 20 homeless veterans were kicked out of a hotel in Newburgh and were being placed in Dutchess County, our MHA Veteran’s Program was gearing up to help, as we always do. To connect with these veterans, we were met with limited information and our team started to have concerns. We could not ascertain the identities of the veterans. My team and I began having concerns about the click-bait headlines stating that homeless veterans were being displaced to make room for asylum seekers.
As the story progressed, I was shocked to discover the hatred and vitriol that was being spewed over this story. Falsehoods were perpetrated for personal platforms by using the plight of homeless veterans in what turned out to be nothing short of devasting dishonesty.
This situation, no doubt, will ultimately further harm our veterans, because their trust has been broken in a system designed to help them in every facet of their lives. People will be skeptical to donate to organizations like ours, because of the numerous calls for donations for this nonexistent issue. Furthermore, people in the homeless shelter in Dutchess County were also deceived when they were recruited under the guise of speaking to a politician about homeless issues only to be told, after being plied with alcohol, the promise of money, and gifts, that they just needed to be present and pretend they were the homeless veterans displaced from a Newburgh hotel. They were told to say that they had PTSD and to simply confirm the lies were being told.
MHA does not stand by and watch as some of our most vulnerable among us are manipulated for some type of personal or political gain. We will continue to stay vigilant, so something like this never happens again. We will, of course, continue to help our veterans, as we have been doing honorably and honestly for the past 10 years, as well as our homeless individuals, both groups who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. We must do better. We must put the needs of our community above the need for headlines, popularity, financial gains, and votes. We must stop creating fear and hatred in a community that is already suffering and hurting. We simply must do better.
About Mental Health America of Dutchess County
MHA of Dutchess County provides the full spectrum of mental health and addiction services in Dutchess County. The heavy emphasis for MHA Dutchess is on community-based interventions where clients are met with wherever needed in a safe space without jumping through unnecessary hoops. MHA provides safe addiction recovery services including residential services.