State Rep. Ryan Hamilton
I am proud to come from the Merrimack Valley, where we cherish and uplift our veterans and their families. I am also proud to come from a family who understands the sacrifice our veterans have made. My grandfather was a Korean War veteran and two of my uncles served in the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With Veterans Day coming up next month, our community will remember and honor the service of our veterans and their families through parades, breakfasts, and salutes. And while I look forward to attending these events, we know that only thanking our veterans for their service is not enough.
Over 6% of veterans in the Commonwealth are facing extreme poverty, with many experiencing homelessness and housing instability. As we celebrate our veterans in the coming weeks, we must also take real steps towards improving their quality of life. At the State House, I have filed and co-sponsored a number of bills that would put money back in the pockets of our veterans and increase access to services.
Since I took office in January, I have had the privilege of meeting with local veterans regularly, listening to their concerns and elevating their issues on Beacon Hill and at City Hall. Through these conversations it has become clear that there is more work to be done here in Methuen to help our veterans.
Currently, a small team in City Hall at the Veterans’ Services Office (VSO), along with two member-based clubs (VFW and American Legion), provide the Lion’s share of services for veterans in Methuen. The services these groups provide are invaluable: healthcare support, employment assistance, mental health counseling, and educational programming, to name a few. Coming out of the pandemic, demand for greater veterans’ services has only grown, stretching these three organizations thin.
The demographics of our veteran population has also changed over time, as younger service members from more diverse backgrounds return to our community. Services must adapt to these changes and bring in those who are left out of current programs. It is time for our community and our city to come together and create an all-encompassing space worthy of those who have served and sacrificed for this nation.
That is why I am partnering with Mayor Perry and the City of Methuen to create a dedicated Methuen Veterans Center in our community. By purchasing the space that the American Legion currently occupies on Broadway and renovating it into a permanent center open to all veterans, we can do better by those who fought for our freedoms.
The center would still allow the Legion to operate its own meeting space downstairs, while the rest of the building would be open to all veterans and their families. With its three floors and central location, this space would increase the capacity of current programs and allow for the development of new, sorely needed services.
The center would also be home to Methuen’s Office of Veterans’ Services, led by Paul Jensen, who has been a steadfast partner in developing this project. By bringing everyone together under one roof, we can create a sense of belonging and support among our veterans, many of whom are experiencing high rates of isolation and loneliness.
Our vision for this center includes a wide range of services. Accessing and affording healthcare, including mental health care, is a major barrier for veterans across age groups.
The center would be able to provide personalized care and counseling to each veteran, ensuring that they are directed towards the best services. From workshops on financial planning and job trainings to peer mentorship groups and legal and VA claims assistance, the center will be an active hub for greater services, social gatherings, and supports for our veterans.
As we begin the initial stages of this project, I invite all members of our community to contribute to this vision.
Residents can reach out to my office directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (617) 722-2090. All veterans in Methuen deserve a space where they feel welcomed and supported. Let’s come together as a city and make the Methuen Veterans Center a reality. ◊