A Mid-Missouri organization is still working to raise funds for a new veterans housing complex and shelter in Columbia.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, (R)-MO, spoke at the future veterans Welcome Home site Tuesday on the importance of the project to local veterans’ health.
The Harry S. Truman VA Hospital in Columbia has seen about 800 new homeless veterans so far this year, according to Sara Froese with Truman VA.
“Welcome Home, A Community for Veterans” is about 64 percent funded, according to Welcome Home, Inc. Board President Ross Bridges.
Construction on the project began in February at the former Deluxe Inn site off Business Loop 70 East. The former hotel building is gutted and ready to start converting into apartments, Bridges said.
But the project needs about $3 million to complete.
“We do have a homeless veterans problem in the country,” Sen. Roy Blunt, (R)-MO said. “We had a veteran suicide problem in the country. Both of those need to be dealt with. And I think Welcome Home is doing some of the things very much that need to be done to see that both of those issues are dealt with.”
The Welcome Home campus will have 25 one bedroom permanent housing apartments called Patriot Place Apartments. Right now, that half of the project is fully funded.
But money is still needed to build the shelter for homeless veterans with 29 temporary beds and a supportive services center.
Columbia City Manager Mike Matthes recently recommended that $500,000 from the city’s general fund savings from last year be given to the Welcome Home project.
“I can’t think of a better use of the savings than this,” Matthes said. “You know, our veterans are coming back and we can try to help them reenter the civilian life or not, and we deal with the consequences either way.”
The city council will decide whether to accept Matthes’ recommendation on the funds at the second city council meeting in September, Matthes said.
If the council does choose to give funds to the project, it will go toward converting the existing building into about half of the rooms and to start construction on the new building that will house the rest of the rooms, Bridges said.
“It’s important for the community to remember that these individuals were veterans before they were homeless,” Bridges said. “You know, they have served our country in our country’s time of need. And I think our country thrives when we return the favor back to them and serve them now in their time of need.”
The Patriot Place Apartments are expected to be completed May 2016. But as for now, there is no expected completion date on the emergency shelter half of the project until the remaining funds are raised.
You can find out more about Welcome Home, A Community for Veterans here.