Veterans to transition together at The Higher Standard Project’s first home

This Veterans Day, a new recovery home opens in York County specifically for veterans. It is part of The Higher Standard Project — a privately funded endeavor that’s the first of its kind in the area.

Story by: Anthony Machcinski
Sgt. Kevin Crook is a member of the advisory board that oversees The Higher Standard Project, a privately funded, soon-to-be nationally accredited recovery home for veterans undergoing treatment for trauma, substance abuse, or both, while enrolled in York County’s Veterans Wellness Court or returning from long term in-patient care. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

After four deployments, Sgt. Kevin Crook was “tired of getting shot at.” 

He served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq during his almost 10 years as a Marine and was ready to return to civilian life. He hoped to get a job working security, something with a similar structure as the service.  

Right before the military discharged him, he broke his right leg and couldn’t pass the physical assessment tests he needed for that kind of work.  

His life shifted in the wrong direction.  

A bad marriage began to crumble, and mental health issues like undiagnosed PTSD, depression and anxiety took their toll on him.  

Then came the fight. Then came prison.  

“I lost my identity as a Marine, as a father, as a husband,” Kevin says. “I lost myself along the way.”

Former military members work on a house that will become the first home part of The Higher Standard Project. The home is a few miles outside of the city with space for six men in their own separate rooms. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

Setting veterans up for success 

After his prison release, everything was gone: his three-story home, his cars, his family.  

“I was a homeless veteran with a mortgage, riding a bicycle through York just to get to my VA appointments three miles away,” he says.  

Kevin was accepted into the York County Veterans Wellness Court, a unique system that diverts eligible veterans to a judicially supervised treatment plan that a team of court staff, veteran health care professionals, and veteran peer mentors develop with the veteran – all to establish lifestyles reflecting the values of military service. While in the Court Program, some veterans find themselves renting rooms in unregulated recovery homes. 

If you’re going to expect people to make that fundamental change in their life, then we need to set them up to be successful.

quotecircle
Stacy Dietz President of The Higher Standard Project’s advisory board

For veterans, the homes are strange places. Those entering don’t know one another and don’t have any common bond. There’s no kinship among those living there, Kevin says, and it leaves them feeling alone. 

This Veterans Day, though, there will be a better place for people like Kevin when a new recovery home opens specifically for veterans. It’s called The Higher Standard Project, a privately funded, soon-to-be nationally accredited recovery home for veterans undergoing treatment for trauma, substance abuse, or both, while enrolled in York County’s Veterans Wellness Court or returning from long term in-patient care.  

The home is a few miles outside of the city with space for six men in their own separate rooms. A resource manager from Bell Socialization Services will help integrate treatment plans and recovery.  

“If you’re going to expect people to make that fundamental change in their life, then we need to set them up to be successful,” says Stacy Dietz, president of The Higher Standard Project’s advisory board.  

Entering a recovery home where everyone is a veteran creates a common bond between the participants. The goal is that the common bond will help hold the residents of the home to a higher standard. (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

‘What it means to serve’ 

Second Class Petty Officer Brian Keys was the product of a military family and bounced around the country. Just before his 18th birthday, he joined the Navy and served for eight years from Norfolk to Singapore.  

After his discharge, he ran into troubles with alcohol and later ended up behind bars.  

Like Kevin, Brian’s still living in a recovery home. Because of their experiences and their desire to help others, both are members of the advisory board that oversees The Higher Standard Project. 

He believes the program will work because it’s veterans holding veterans accountable.  

“I’ll meet guys and won’t be sure how to feel about them, but once I find out they were in the military, there’s a bond,” Brian says. “They know what it means to serve.” 

Veterans living together and sharing the responsibilities of a suburban home and living to the highest possible standards will be beneficial, he says.  

“It sounds regimented, but you’re OK with that because you’re here and trying to make a change,” Brian says. “It will be a nurturing environment.” 

Much of the work on The Higher Standard Project has been done by veterans like Second Class Petty Officer Brian Keys, some of whom use the hours working on the home to add to their own hours of community service.(Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)
Much of the work on The Higher Standard Project has been done by veterans like Second Class Petty Officer Brian Keys, some of whom use the hours working on the home to add to their own hours of community service.(Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)
Much of the work on The Higher Standard Project has been done by veterans like Second Class Petty Officer Brian Keys, some of whom use the hours working on the home to add to their own hours of community service.(Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)
Much of the work on The Higher Standard Project has been done by veterans like Second Class Petty Officer Brian Keys, some of whom use the hours working on the home to add to their own hours of community service. (Photos by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

Given a purpose 

When he left the Marines, Kevin felt alone and like he had lost his identity. With The Higher Standard Project, he’s discovered himself outside of military service.  

“This has given me a tribe again,” Kevin says. “I’m back in a place where people depend on me. It’s given me purpose again.” 

Part of that purpose is using his experience to help his fellow veterans. 

“To be able to come back from where I was,” he says, “look at someone and say, ‘Hey man, I know it sucks right now, but let me tell you how I got through it,’ is honorable.” 

The Higher Standard Project is privately funded through donations to York County Veterans in Need Fund. Donations can be made by check to the Veterans in Need Fund c/o York County Veterans Affairs or gofundme.com/the-higher-standard-project.

Sgt. Kevin Crook says the Higher Standard Project and working on the advisory board have given him a renewed sense of purpose. “This has given me a tribe again. I’m back in a place where people depend on me.” (Photo by Caleb Robertson for Our York Media)

Sponsored by York County Department of Veterans Affairs

Visit: York County VA website
yorkvet@yorkcountypa.gov
717-771-9218
28 E. Market St. York, PA 17401

Get good news in your inbox: Subscribe and we’ll send you the latest features as well as behind-the-scenes looks of our stories and why each story we publish matters to us and the community.