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Augusta Commission to vote on VA housing

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The Augusta Commission is scheduled to vote today on a rezoning that would allow Augusta nonprofit Hope House to convert two 1930s-era Department of Veterans Affairs buildings into a $10 million transitional housing center for homeless veterans.

Hope House, a nonprofit, is seeking rezoning to adapt Veterans Affairs buildings for transitional housing for homeless veterans.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Hope House, a nonprofit, is seeking rezoning to adapt Veterans Affairs buildings for transitional housing for homeless veterans.

But the Freedom's Path project faces opposition from the Richmond County Neighborhood Association Alliance, which has lobbied the commission to refuse rezoning the nine-acre federal property as multifamily residential for the project unless developers scrap a plan to create an entrance on Maryland Avenue, which separates the VA property from a residential neighborhood.

"We never anticipated that the neighbors would not want veterans living beside them," Hope House Executive Director Karen Saltzman said.

Commissioner Joe Jackson said the neighborhood group's petition hadn't changed his mind.

"You're dealing with the federal government, and they want to put in a $10 (million) or $12 million investment that's putting people to work," he said. "We have homeless veterans that we need to take care of."

Sammie Sias, the head of the neighborhood alliance and a candidate for the District 4 commission seat, said neighbors in the Highland Park area preferred that the veterans use the front VA entrance on Wrightsboro Road instead of a gate on Maryland, he said.

"The street was too narrow, anybody can see that, for that kind of heavy traffic," said Sias, a 28-year Army veteran. "Everybody else uses the front."

Late Monday, he said Hope House had agreed to scrap its plan for the rear entrance, but no one from the nonprofit could be reached to confirm that.

Developer Craig Taylor of Atlanta said the original plan included a brick and wrought-iron or metal fence, about 6 feet high, around the buildings.

"We're trying to generate a sense of separation and a stepping out," he said. "So the orientation of residents was away from the (VA) residence and toward the community."

The interior gate would not prevent veterans from walking to the VA hospital for medical care, he said.

Using the Wrightsboro Road entrance, the veterans will walk by the VA boiler and chiller plant, a couple of loading docks and a maintenance shop.

"It's not a first-class entrance," Taylor said.

A builder already selected from the Augusta area will preserve the historical character of the buildings according to standards laid out by the National Park Service, Taylor said.

The buildings have been vacant since the VA incorporated its services into its new hospital at the same site, said Janice Kennedy, the community relations coordinator for the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.

Kathleen Scott, the chief of the Norwood Center's Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program, said Freedom's Path is where domiciliary residents will move when they're ready to start a job search and return to normal life.

The VA complex is "missing that vocational rehabilitation job component and having a place to stay while they save their money," Scott said.

The two buildings were designated for the federal Enhanced-Use Lease program and mandated by the VA to be used for homeless veteran services, she said.

"For some reason (neighbors) don't want us to transition into the community," she said. "We've had the domiciliary here for 10 years, and there hasn't been one complaint or concern expressed by anyone on that street."

Freedom's Path will be like the domiciliary, with around-the-clock rules for behavior and curfews.

"It's not a flophouse; it's not a shelter. It's truly a rehabilitation center to transition veterans back into the community," Scott said.

Veterans at the domiciliary learn techniques for stress management, how to cope with grief and loss, get treatment for alcohol and drug abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues associated with life after deployment, she said.

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corgimom
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corgimom 05/04/10 - 12:50 am
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"Freedom's Path will be like

"Freedom's Path will be like the domiciliary, with around-the-clock rules for behavior and curfews."

If the program is for responsible adults that will be good citizens, why would grown adults need around the clock rules for behavior and curfews? Normal people don't need that.

I wouldn't want that in my neighborhood, either.

Trey Enfantay
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Trey Enfantay 05/04/10 - 03:21 am
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What a great insight into

What a great insight into your selfish soul.

Roeschen
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Roeschen 05/04/10 - 04:40 am
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Corgimom - I hope every

Corgimom - I hope every rehabilitation center has rules for behavior etc. These men have done their duty to this country. They have protected us from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. Now maybe it is time to help them and give back to them just a little of what they have given to us. I am so sorry you would not want "that in my neighborhood". I, for one, would not want you in my neighborhood.

fishman960
1444
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 08:20 am
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Channel 12 news had a report

Channel 12 news had a report last nite saying that the gate will be scrapped and the front entrance on Wrightsboro Rd will be used. Again, the issue has shifted to the lack of support for Veterans, which is NOT the issue at all. We don't want the added traffic. The Veterans are already there, they will just be in another building. The description of "walking through the bowels" just isn't true.

fishman960
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 08:30 am
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It would be insane to think

It would be insane to think they would scrap a 10 million project because of a gate. For that money, they could have a shuttle service (like they already have on the main campus).

Nothing else to say
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Nothing else to say 05/04/10 - 08:34 am
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Corqimon, your statement "

Corqimon, your statement " If the program is for responsible adults that will be good citizens, why would grown adults need around the clock rules for behavior and curfews? Normal people don't need that.
is stupid! They are everday rules lights out, no smoking in rooms, etc like in a dorm but they are respected. Do you follow traffic laws, pay taxes? Get REAL!!!!
I still can not believe this is such an issue!!! There used to be a gate on Maryland Ave. that was used by everyone..... It's just prejudice on your part!!!!! Shame on all of you.

fishman960
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 08:44 am
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Nothing, that gate is still

Nothing, that gate is still there. It's right in front of my house. 100 yards or so from the project. It will be used, I'm sure. Vet's already use it. In fact, like you said, "everyone" uses it.

fishman960
1444
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 08:51 am
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In Sunday's city ink, I quote

In Sunday's city ink, I quote Joe Bowles who said this,
"Fishman,
You are absolutely correct. There is no valid reason for an entrance on Murray St." (he meant Maryland Ave)

LRL1945
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LRL1945 05/04/10 - 08:53 am
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This is the same people who

This is the same people who has put their lives on the line for you can live in your run down housing on Maryand Ave and live there in peace and quite. $10 million would look a better than what I see daily coming to work on that ave. I see you would rather see our men and women maybe your son or husband, daughter/mother prehaps with a child or children living under the bridge in a card board box. How stupid you folks need to get a life because, it is obvious that you don't have one. Just think of the veterans that have just come back from Iraq, have you no heart. These veterans deserve and want a fresh start and leave it to the idiots that we have here that don't want them. Why are you being so ignorant, they won't hurt you? do you not realize the uptown divison is a mental hospital that has federal police , and when was the last time one of them patients came over to harm you?

Harrisburg Homeowner
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Harrisburg Homeowner 05/04/10 - 09:17 am
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I am an Army Veteran. But

I am an Army Veteran. But for the grace of God and the help of family and friends, I may have been homeless myself. I feel that I have a unique opportunity to see both sides of this subject. While I agree that having an easy access to the home would be nice, I also believe that no neigbhorhood should placed in a position where they must permit the additional traffic of questionable mental or criminal status. I firmly believe in homeless shelters. They are desperately needed--BUT not in neighborhoods where they can generate fear for the residents and their children. History has shown that many people, rather than deal with the continued onslaught of fear and intimidation (whether real or imagined), sell their houses and move elsewhere. The result is a downwardly spiraling, unstable neighborhood. Something that the neighborhood nor Augusta can afford to have.

fishman960
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 09:18 am
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Thanks, AC. Another comment

Thanks, AC. Another comment pulled for one word.

bankgirl
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bankgirl 05/04/10 - 10:35 am
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I think this is a great

I think this is a great project. I don't care where the entrance is just as long as our homeless vets have a safe and warm place to sleep at night were they can get the help needed to become active members of society again.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 05/04/10 - 01:03 pm
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Demogoguery in action: "We

Demogoguery in action:

"We never anticipated that the neighbors would not want veterans living beside them," Hope House Executive Director Karen Saltzman said.

What the neighbors object to is excessive traffic on their narrow street. They are not objecting to “veterans living beside them.” Karen Saltzman knows this, but she chooses to portray the people in that neighborhood as bigots against veterans.

dani
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dani 05/04/10 - 01:13 pm
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Leave the vets alone. How

Leave the vets alone. How can they possibly make Maryland Ave worse.

fishman960
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 01:28 pm
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Well said, Little Lamb. Dani,

Well said, Little Lamb. Dani, how about it becoming a one way again? Any of you would not want anymore traffic on your street, would you?

corgimom
31525
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corgimom 05/04/10 - 01:44 pm
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Ah, Trey, so happy to see

Ah, Trey, so happy to see that you are your pleasant self, as always.

Perhaps you have not lived around people that have serious drug, alcohol, and mental problems. I have.

Why don't you allow them to live with you, since your soul is not selfish?

PS- Call me all the names you want. Doesn't bother me, I don't want or need your approval.

corgimom
31525
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corgimom 05/04/10 - 01:43 pm
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And nothing, I know the

And nothing, I know the difference between curfews and lights out. I guess you don't. I also know the difference between normal rules for community living and rules for very troubled adults.

I am very strongly pro Veteran. They put their lives on the line? They did? Funny, I know a lot of veterans whose biggest hazard was getting nicked by a knife in the kitchen, and a lot of veterans that never set foot in a combat zone. Not all service members are in combat branches.

There is a myth that all of the homeless veterans with drug and alcohol problems got them in the service, suffer from PTSD, and all of their problems are service-connected. Just because someone served in the military does not give them a free pass for the rest of their lives. To do so is a disgrace and disrespectful to all the millions and millions of veterans who served, came back, and had productive lives.

To suggest that because they served is the reason why they are like they are is obscene. The military is a cross-section of America. You have good people, medium people, and sorry people that aren't worth two cents. A whole lot of the homeless vets had problems long before they went into the service.

Here's what a lot of people don't understand. The "problem" is increased traffic on a narrow street? How many homeless veterans do you know that own cars?

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 05/04/10 - 01:54 pm
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Since they, Hope House, are

Since they, Hope House, are asking to become a larger part of this community with this program I think the homeowners should have imput HOWEVER, these vets need us and we should be there for them like they were for us.

I am sure a compromise can be reached.

Brad

P.S. High Five bankgirl.

fishman960
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 01:57 pm
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Corgi, right on on your 1:43

Corgi, right on on your 1:43 except for the last statement. If you haven't yet, Google the street and see how close the existing gate is from the proposed building. The proposed gate will be cut in right between Clifton and Lynwood St. Why cut another gate 100 yds from where there is one now? And just how do you think these Vet's are going to get around if they have no transportation? Let me guess, bus? When they made this road, it was designated as a one way.

fishman960
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 01:59 pm
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Besides, the planners have

Besides, the planners have given up on the gate. It is a moot conversation.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 05/04/10 - 02:04 pm
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corgimom, Everyone who

corgimom,

Everyone who serves, no matter how insignificant their job may seem to an outsider, is vital to the overall mission being a success.

From the airman who loads the bombs, to the cooks in the chow hall, are all part of a team that help us win.

Do not belittle anyone's non-combat service please. I kow you were tryig to make a point about how not everyone was in ACTUAL danger, but the fact is, everyone COULD have been in direct danger because they served.

Brad

fishman960
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 02:11 pm
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Brad, I had a friend that

Brad, I had a friend that enlisted in the air force. He went on to become a cook in Montana. Once, he was cleaning out the freezer and decided to take a nap while it defrosted. He ended up sleeping too long, all the food was lost and he ended up with an dishonorable discharge.
I have to agree with Corgi in that most of these problems vet's have they had before joining (in my friend's case, laziness) and not all of them are as noble as you make them out to be.

corgimom
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corgimom 05/04/10 - 02:21 pm
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Thank you Brad Owens, but you

Thank you Brad Owens, but you don't need to tell me what service members do. My father served for 21 years and fought in two wars.

And no, not everyone could be in direct danger. For you to say that shows you don't understand the various branches of the service and how it works.

People think all military personnel go to combat. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are non-combat MOS's that aren't designed to go and never will go.

When's the last time you saw, say, a postal worker in combat? Or an accountant? Or a lawyer? Or an instructor at a school? All of those service members are vital to the Armed Services, but they don't go.

Brad, remember back in the day when women weren't allowed to join combat MOS's? I distinctly remember that.

There are thousands of jobs that never require combat.

Frank I
1174
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Frank I 05/04/10 - 03:33 pm
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corgimom: I have to side with

corgimom: I have to side with Brad on this one. All members of the military put their life on the line once they enlist. The first stage of training, before learning their MOS, is to become a combatant. It doesn't matter if they go on to become a lawyer, an accountant, or whatever else they choose they can still be called on to be a combatant at any time.

fishman960
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 04:10 pm
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Callen, since you work at

Callen, since you work at this facility maybe you can tell me just where these disabled Veterans are walking to exactly? Most walk across the street to the Raco to get their goods. Other than a Popeyes, A Circle K, and a barber shop the only other thing to walk to is the bus stop.

fishman960
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 04:21 pm
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Can ANY poster tell me as to

Can ANY poster tell me as to where exactly these disabled Veterans will be walking to? If they have disabilities, they will not be walking far. The house that Michael Nestor got shot and killed is only two blocks away from this building! Are they looking for a crack house? If they can't walk, they will need some sort of transportation, won't they? How will they transition if they can't get around?

fishman960
1444
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 04:27 pm
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Wow. Two comments removed on

Wow. Two comments removed on the same thread. I apparently have said more than enough. Rest of y'all play nice, now.

Frank I
1174
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Frank I 05/04/10 - 04:28 pm
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To say they will not be

To say they will not be walking far because they have disabilities is not accurate. quite a large number of disabilities do not impede ones ability to walk. I was discharged from the Army due to problems with my knees but am still able to walk just fine.

callen52
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callen52 05/04/10 - 04:38 pm
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You know you seemed to have

You know you seemed to have enough time to watch where the veterans go, maybe it would be better served helping someone. Where they go is not the issue, it is the right to go that is! I am not one who may have speed issues, but I do live in this neighborhood, and the good ole boy pickup trucks are speeding are on the weekends and after hours are not coming from that gate or employees. And by the way , people coming from the Daycare, should they be banned, or the Church down the street, or the Businesses on the next street. Considering it takes two to have a intelligent conversation and you would rather fight and demoralize veterans with your preceived and offensive views of veterans, I won't be responding to any of your comments. I just Thank God for showing me that you Sir, were the reason others had to be veterans of the military, you sure could not have been depended on for courage, or bravery, it missed you all together. Have a great day, courtesty of a veteran!

fishman960
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fishman960 05/04/10 - 04:46 pm
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Callen, it is interesting

Callen, it is interesting that you say (I am assuming you are referring to me here) I demoralize and offend Veterans when all I am doing is making a safer street for my daughter and I to walk on. Show me where I have done these things to any Vet? Just because I disagree with you about a traffic issue? Were they guaranteed by the Gov't to have a nice gate by their transitional house? Another poster trying to make an issue about something else entirely. My father was a decorated Marine who fought in three wars. I take offense to your insinuations.

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