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New “Barracks” opens in Lancaster for veterans getting back on their feet

LANCASTER, Pa. --- On Thursday, community, county and city leaders celebrated the grand opening of the Lancaster Veterans Barracks.

A condemned home on the 400 block of Fremont Street was purchased by the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership in September 2017.

In a year's time, the house was flipped and will now house three veterans who are trying to get back on their feet through the Lancaster County Veterans Court.

That is a treatment court that helps veterans tied up in certain crimes, such as issues pertaining to substance or alcohol abuse, an opportunity to reintegrate back into society.

Eddie Patton, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and project manager for CAPital Workforce, said he wanted to help with the project.

He helped find the house and led the efforts to renovate it.

“It’s been really great to see how they look after each other and take care of each other and really that thing they were missing since they got out of the military. They have that sense of camaraderie and belonging to something,” said Patton.

Joshua Bender, a U.S. Army veteran, will be one of the first to live in the new barracks.

He said the new home is "really big" for him.

Bender explained he’s been through “bumps in the road” as he has struggled with depression and anxiety that has led to substance abuse issues.

He said he believes this house will bring together a family outside of his own family.

“Coming home to people that you know you can trust and you know you can count on. Especially going through some struggles, sometimes you don’t have that place to come home to,” said Bender.

Sgt. Alex Marschka of the U.S. Marine Corps reserves said he will also live in the barracks.

“I think this barracks is a physical manifestation of the community caring about you,” said Marschka.

He said he’s battled mental health issues with alcohol, which has led to legal troubles.

Marschka and the veterans living in the home put in "sweat equity" by helping with the renovations on the house.

Marschka said they want to make sure this home can provide one less thing to worry about for veterans going through hard times.

“We’ll take care of it and respect it the way that it needs to be respected just because we put all our hard work into it and we want to see that it stays that way for future generations that come through here and future housemates that will share these spaces,” said Marschka.

Buying and renovating the house cost nearly $100,000.

$150,000 was raised for labor and materials.

The left over funds will be saved to take care of major system repairs or replacements in the future.

The home is owned by the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership.

Residents will pay a monthly fee to keep up with the costs.