The Dan Gyllenskog Veterans Resource Center hosted an open house for the public to preview the first-of-its-kind, all-inclusive “home” for veterans to seek assistance in Logan on Wednesday.
“At CAPSA, there’s a home for domestic violence,” said CEO Phil Redlinger. “For employment, you go to the Department of Workforce Services. There’s The Family Place, and if you’ve had trauma resiliency, you go there, right? … We’ve recognized the importance of these services, and we know we need to have some here, so we’re gonna do it.”
The center will combine multiple agencies in one location to make it easier for veterans to get help, whether it has to do with furthering education, mental or physical health, homelessness or accessibility.
Redlinger himself is a disabled Army veteran, so he understands the needs from both the advocacy and personal perspective.
“I got out, and I was evicted a couple times, and I couldn’t pay my bills,” he said. “I have had those issues. But in Washington state, I worked for an organization that served veterans in intensive services. They had mental health, they had homeless services, they worked on the streets, they did outreach, they did all the efforts. Everything was in the heart of Seattle.”
When Redlinger and his wife moved to Utah, he saw there were only minimal services in Cache Valley. The new resource center will help address the need for the more than 15,000 veterans in the four-county area of Cache, Box Elder, Rich and Franklin, and has plans to help beyond.
“We’re veterans helping veterans serve in the community,” he said.
Mental health services and homelessness are two of the top priorities, and involving women veterans is crucial for that as that’s the fastest-growing demographic of those who experience homelessness, according to Tiffany Morris, a caseworker for the center.
Morris, an Army veteran who was deployed to Iraq on Veterans Day in 2010, experienced homelessness herself when she moved to Utah to attend Utah State University.
“I lived in my car for two weeks, but that was a scary two weeks,” she said. “There were so many nights that I had cars that would circle me to try and figure out if somebody was in the vehicle that I would just have to get up and drive away and go somewhere else. And some nights I didn’t get to sleep at all because I was too busy worrying if they were going to find me.”
Cache County and the surrounding area are not immune to the rising cases of homelessness due to the pandemic, so the resource center is expanding services to individuals and families who have lost their homes due to COVID-19 thanks to CARES Act funding.
“We need to get these resources out there,” Morris said, “and let (people) know what’s available to them.”
Another goal is to help veterans build up the community, both among veterans and for the area in general. Serendipitously, the Veterans Day open house reunited former U.S. Marine Corps veterans Nathan York and Clint Cary, who served together.
They’d both been back in the area for the last four years, but had no idea.
“Veterans can keep to themselves, or they’re very shut in a lot of the time,” Cary said. “I think this will help get them out of houses, or where they like to stay, and reconnect with people.”
The center is named after local veteran and advocate Dan Gyllenskog, of the U.S. Marine Corps, who died in 2014. His family is excited to see his life’s work honored and furthered in the community.
His brother, Matt, served in the U.S. Public Health Service, and Matt’s daughter is a disabled Navy veteran.
“I know from working with my daughter that getting what you need is just so confusing,” he said. “And veterans, a lot of them are already suffering from psychological problems, so a lot of them just give up. They just can’t get through the veterans’ mess. Here, they’re going to have a lot better chance.”