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Hamilton County Veteran Services hoping proposed new office location will help them better serve vets

Last Updated 3 weeks by Amnon J. Jobi | Amnon Front Page

If you asked a veteran in Hamilton County where the Veterans Services Office was, youd likely get a blank stare.

People don’t know even where we are, said Veterans Service Commission Executive Director Orlando Sonza.

If they do find the location, theyre then met with a fight for parking that ranges from parking meters to parking lots that can cost upwards of $20.

A lot of our veterans come to the Veterans Service Commission Office to get emergency financial assistance, and to now put on top of their emergency need this requirement to now pay for parking, just to be able to even meet with someone in person or office is a huge problem, Sonza said.

While the VSC does reimburse parking expenses for veterans approved for financial assistance, the burden and frustration of finding and paying for parking can be too much for some.

Hamilton Countys desire to purchase the Mercy Health building in Bond Hill off the Norwood Lateral and Reading Road will change a few things for the Veterans Service Office and potentially open the door for more services for veterans.

So this move fixes that the parking is going to be completely free, there’s going to be tons of space for not just veterans, but those county residents that are just trying to get access to the benefits that are all of the entities that are going to be in the building can give to them is going to be huge, Sonza said.

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Those entities include the Hamilton County Job & Family Services, Developmental Disabilities Services and others the county plans to move to the new location if the county board of commissioners approves the purchase.

I think we’re going to be four times the footprint we currently are with just much better bones in the building technology-wise to allow us to work different things, Veteran Commissioner Steven Staniford said. To allow more offices for service officers, file storage, as well as different areas to break off and have transportation people or an outreach team, it is pretty much an open palette for us to do whatever we want, in the design of our floor plan.

Before applying to be a commissioner, Staniford was one of the first in a group of veterans who responded to our Homefront investigation of the county VSC last year, and one of the first to begin asking for accountability for the office and raised concerns about accessibility to their current downtown office which is in the William Howard Taft Center building.

He said aside from the vast free parking lot, having the VSC within the same walls of other county agencies will better help veterans.

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Working together with the other county organizations will be able to develop those interpersonal communications and be like, ‘I know just the person you need to see let me take you over to him or let me see if they’re available,’ Staniford said.

Aside from resources, the accessibility of the building by way of car or public transit makes it a place where veterans of every means should find it more inviting.

It’s ease of access for them, Sonza said.

He also said the layout of the property will allow them to host community-based events similar to their upcoming free veteran appreciation event planned for July 20 at Great American Ballpark.

The Veteran Service Commissioner Hamilton County is going through a period of transition, good transition, Sonza said. We’re expanding services, you know, we’re expanding what we can give to our veterans and afford them in terms of transportation to and from medical appointments, dental care, financial literacy programs are on the horizon as well. So, having the space that’s going to be able to coincide with the expansion of services that we provide is going to be huge. Along with that expansion of services, right, you need a bigger team, or you at least need the team that’s going to be able to service them efficiently, service them properly.

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The timeline would not be swift. If the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners approves the purchase, they would expect to close on the property by October of 2024, according to Hamilton County Administrator Jeff Aluotto. Orlando Sonza says he expects at least a six-month renovation of the interior of the building to get the various areas of the building ready for the new county office tenants.

You can stay on top of updates during the bi-monthly VSC meetings either in person or on their newly launched YouTube channel.

If you have a veteran story to tell in your community, email homefront@wcpo.com. You also can

join the Homefront Facebook group,

follow Craig McKee on Facebook

and

find more Homefront stories here.

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