Newton mayor stumps locally

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PITTSFIELD -- Newton Mayor Setti Warren extended his U.S. Senate campaign trail through the Berkshires on Thursday.

Warren, 40, announced earlier this week that he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown in the 2012 election.

On Thursday, he spent part of the morning at Cranwell Resort in Lenox, participating in the Massachusetts Municipal Association's annual spring conference for the Massachusetts Mayors Association. Later in the morning, he visited Solider On in Pittsfield to tour its new 39-unit residential housing project and to meet with veterans there.

The mayor visited the Solider On housing project, a first of its kind in the country, last fall with his former boss, Sen. John Kerry. Warren served as the national trip director for Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, and later served as the senator's deputy state director, working as a point person on small business and economic development.

Warren enlisted in the Navy Reserve after Sept. 11, and in 2008, he completed a tour of duty in Iraq as a naval intelligence specialist. He was elected as mayor of Newton in 2009.

"As an Iraq vet, I understand how important it is for veterans to come home to a home and integrate back into life," Warren said.

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Back in January, Soldier On completed the $6.9 million subsidized housing project and immediately filled all 39 homes from members of its shelter for homeless veterans.

Designed by Cambridge-based arSechitect Nick Elton, each unit has its own unique design -- no two are alike. Certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, the project uses high-efficiency boilers, solar panels and special insulation to keep low energy costs, and subsequently low rent charges for residents.

The units are set in a village-style arrangement with a common walkway, grills and tidy landscaped lawns. There is a 10-member board that acts as a homeowners' association, and residents decide how their campus will be maintained, and who among them will be responsible for its care.

During his visit, Warren toured the home of John Woodman, a 93-year-old South Pacific Army veteran who was recently widowed. His one-bedroom apartment has become a well-kept sanctuary of nostalgia, with mementos from his days of service to numerous photographs of Genevieve, his wife of 64 years.

"I love it here. My only regret is that my wife isn't here to see this with me," Woodman said.

Soldier On President and Chief Executive Officer Jack Downing said sobriety and fiscal responsibility are emphasized in the community, a challenge when 88 percent of residents are addicted to either drugs or alcohol and 84 percent face some sort of mental health diagnosis. Only 17 percent of residents have a driver's license.

But because of the new housing, health and counseling services are now provided directly to veterans, often within their homes.


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