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Bergen Executive Visits Formerly Homeless Vets In New Wood-Ridge Digs

Tom Kania shows off his new home to Tedesco and AJ Bauer, director of veterans affairs. Photo Credit: Alexis Tarrazi
Tedesco chats with Karla Norlander and Charmaine Rivera of Ingerman Housing and AJ Luna and Christian Bauer of Veteran's Affairs. Photo Credit: Alexis Tarrazi

WOOD-RIDGE, N.J. -- U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jorge Benites beamed with pride as he gave Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco a tour of his new home in Wood-Ridge on Monday.

"I love it," Benites told the county executive, who smiled back.

Less than a month ago, Benites was living in a hotel. That changed thanks to a campaign promise that Tedesco made -- and delivered on -- to take care of Bergen's military vets.

It includes visiting VFW posts in Lodi, Rutherford, Ridgefield, Fairview and Leonia on Monday to donate used county computers.

When Tedesco took office in January, there was one person working in the Bergen County Division of Veterans Services. Now there are seven.

"Look at this kitchen island," Tom Kania, a formerly homeless Vietnam veteran told the county executive while fighting back tears during a visit Monday to his new home. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me," Tedesco responded. "We are here to thank you."

The goal, he said, is place all 72 identified homeless veterans in the county in a home by the end of this year.

"We have already placed 60 veterans," said Christian Bauer, the county executive's liaison. "Bergen County is the only county in New Jersey doing this."

A.J. Luna, the director of Bergen's Veterans Services, worked with Ingerman Affordable Housing at Wesmont Station, which set aside six units for the veterans. The units were fully-furnished with a bed, couch and kitchen set.

"This is life-changing for them," Tedesco said of the veterans. "Now they know they have somewhere to come home to every day." 

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