Money seized from criminal activities will be put to use supporting a local operation that has assisted an estimated 7,500 veterans in the eight counties of Western New York. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, on Thursday morning, presented a donation to the Veterans One-Stop Center of Western New York.
Flynn's donation of $5,000 comes from his office's Asset Forfeiture Fund, which receives a portion of the money seized in criminal investigations each year. Flynn is allowed to donate a maximum of $25,000 yearly and has chosen the Veterans One-Stop Center as one of five organizations to receive funds this year.
As a veteran who served nearly three decades in the U.S. Navy, Flynn finds assisting veterans a cause that is close to his heart, especially keeping them from going down a desperate path toward homelessness, drug addiction or crime.
"Individuals who come off of active duty who have problems, who have mental health issues, who have alcohol or drug issues, now that they're off active duty they need a family to come to as well," said Flynn.
The donation will support programs provided by the Veterans One-Stop Center including counseling, education, legal and financial services, job assistance and housing services.
Retired Colonel John Higgins, the president and chief executive officer of the Veterans One-Stop Center, says the path to poverty and homelessness is a slippery slope but even more so for veterans.
Higgins admitted it is often times difficult to convince a veteran that they need help.
"Some people come in and they're great. Sometimes, it is exactly that," He said. "That's why we do these programs, peer-to-peer counseling, our Dwyer program. These are vets with PTSD talking to other vets because they won't talk to other people sometimes."
Flynn said Erie County provides opportunities through its court system to help people correct their lives. But his office, he explained, has historically worked in reaction to crime. He wants to act more proactively to, in his words, put these courts out of business though he knows he'll never be able to fully eradicate their need.
"What we want to do is minimize the crime," Flynn said. "We want to minimize the number of people who are coming into Veteran's Court, who are coming into Mental Health Court, coming into Drug Court, getting them the help that they need right away, right up front."