Gulf War vet finds safe haven at Canandaigua’s Cadence Square
If someone had told John Grega when he was just out of high school — happily married to his high school sweetheart and working in his dad’s business — that he would years later be in prison, he would not have believed it.
“I never thought I would be there,” said Grega, 50, an Army veteran who celebrated one year of sobriety Jan. 13.
A Gulf War veteran who received an honorable discharge in 1999, Grega continued a battle with drugs and alcohol after his Army service. In 2012, when he was out on parole after a 18-month prison sentence for grand larceny, Grega said he was homeless and living with easy access to drug dealers and others like himself who were consumed with drug addiction. It was the lowest point in his life.
“That was my bottom,” said Grega, who shared his story from his apartment at the newly-built Cadence Square Housing for Veterans, with his pup Gracie curled up on a sofa nearby.
Grega takes nothing for granted.
“I take it one day at a time,” he said, during a conversation he agreed to have with a reporter because he hopes others can learn from his experience. “I got Gracie. I got my outpatient help next door,” he said, referring to the services at Cadence Square and at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center.
His goal: To remain sober.
On Friday, community leaders, politicians and professionals in health care, human services and related fields will celebrate the official grand opening of Cadence Square with a media event and an open house for the public. People will be able to tour Cadence Square, which is already providing veterans and their families with transitional and supportive housing. The $11 million project on the VA campus includes the renovated Building 14 and a new, adjacent Building 17. Both provide an array of supportive services.
“We feel great,” said Marty Teller, executive director of Finger Lakes Addiction Counseling and Referral Agency, a lead partner in Cadence Square. The project, several years in the making, offers the 15-bed Safe Haven Community Residence (Building 14) with recovery-oriented substance abuse and mental health services. For those who have reached a more advanced level of recovery, there are eight Supportive Living apartments for 11 individual residents, coupled with support to help them re-enter the workforce.
The new building (Building 17) includes 17 affordable housing apartments for vets and their families ready for independent living. Those were made affordable with the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program in partnership with Rochester Housing Authority.
With this housing located on the VA campus, it means veterans have easy access to care and services along with camaraderie with other veterans.
“We are open … we are able to serve and we are proud of our accomplishments — and our veterans who are living with us,” said Teller.