VA campus to house homeless vets

New local residences would be part of nationwide effort

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 

The Veterans Affairs campus in Vancouver is among 34 sites across the nation that will provide additional housing for homeless veterans and their families.

The Vancouver VA campus will provide building sites for veterans’ housing, said Mike McAleer, spokesman for the Portland/Vancouver VA system.

In some of the sites, unused VA buildings will be repurposed to serve homeless vets.

At the Vancouver campus, however, “We have land,” McAleer said.

Possible parcels range from three-quarters of an acre to 2¼ acres.

The first step will be matching the need with the appropriate acreage.

Just as an example of what might be done, the Vancouver campus has a housing center of 123 single-residency units on a 1.4-acre parcel.

The VA won’t be doing the construction, so the to-do list includes finding local partners, McAleer said.

McAleer said the Vancouver housing might be available in 2014.

Veterans Affairs will hold a one-day national forum Monday in Chicago, with public hearings to be held in Vancouver in the next two months, McAleer said.

In a news release announcing the project, the head of the VA said, “We have a moral obligation to ensure that veterans and their families have access to affordable housing and medical services that will help them get back on their feet.”

“This initiative will significantly support our efforts to eliminate veteran homelessness and improve quality of life for veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

In a news release, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., applauded the initiative.

“I’m so pleased that veterans and their families in Vancouver will have new opportunities to get off the streets and into safe and stable homes,” Murray said.

According to the Murray’s news release, a recent report from the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that there are almost 2,000 homeless veterans in Washington.

The project is part of the Building Utilization Review and Repurposing (BURR) initiative, which identified unused and under-used buildings at existing VA properties.

According to the VA, the project will provide housing for 5,000 veterans.

Vancouver is among 23 sites tabbed for supportive housing projects for homeless veterans and their families. Spokane is the only other site in the Pacific Northwest.

Eleven sites will offer facilities for senior housing, independent living and assisted living.