The Jewish Federation of the Berkshires' Connecting with Community program presents Soldier On, a national provider of comprehensive services and permanent affordable housing for homeless and at-risk veterans. Since taking the helm of Soldier On as CEO in 2001, John F. Downing, "Jack” has overseen a dynamic growth of this agency, which now provides services to nearly 7,000 veterans and veteran family members.
Soldier On specializes in providing a continuum of care that includes immediate and long-term housing along with support services focusing on medical, mental health, transportation, employment and housing needs in an environment that instills dignity, trust and hope. Under his tutelage and vision, Soldier On has grown from a $600,000 annual budget providing outreach and transitional housing for 250 veterans to its current $18 million budget funding an array of services – outreach, stabilization, and transitional and re-housing services to veterans and their families in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Mississippi.
Since 1994, Soldier On has been providing transitional housing and supportive services to veterans in need. With housing in Leeds, MA and Pittsfield, MA, Soldier On provides emergency and transitional housing to 250 veterans, including twelve female veterans in separate housing, on any given night. Supportive services including case management, mental health treatment, addiction counseling, transportation, and assistance with employment and education are delivered to the veteran where they live.
In 2010, with the opening of the first-of-its-kind Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Community, Soldier On began providing permanent housing to formerly homeless veterans. Located in Pittsfield, MA, this safe, sustainable, permanent housing cooperative provided 39 formerly homeless veterans with homes of their own in a community surrounded by their peers.
Jack Downing's extensive experience in corrections and social service has augmented his leadership style, which emphasizes partnerships with organizations such as the VA, HUD, the courts, and district attorneys. Through these associations, Jack has highlighted the necessity of bringing quality care and attention to veterans in need. He has also testified before Congress on several occasions on behalf of homeless veterans. In 2010, he was appointed to the Joint Civilian Orientation Committee of the U.S. Department of Defense, and is one of 80 members chosen by the Secretary of Defense to attend Pentagon briefings in Washington, D.C. The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts awarded Jack an honorary doctorate in public service for the humanities for his commitment and service to the veteran population. Through his vision and years’ long dedication, he has enriched the lives of thousands of men and women.
This free program is part of the Federation’s Connecting With Community Series and will be followed by a kosher hot lunch. Lunch is a $2 suggested donation for adults over 60 years of age or $7 for all others. Advance reservations are required for lunch and can be made by calling (413) 442-2200 before 9 a.m. on the day of the program.