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Commission approves housing for homeless vets in Augusta at old VA buildings

Commission OKs 'supportive housing'

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Two 1930s-era buildings in Augusta soon will house homeless veterans under a plan that won Augusta Commission approval Tuesday.

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Highland Park neighborhood resident Aurora Britton talks to Judith Caira (left), of Affordable Housing Solutions, and Stephanie Suarez (right), of Hope House, after Tuesday's commission meeting. Britton was concerned about traffic on Maryland Avenue, a road with no sidewalk that she often walks.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Highland Park neighborhood resident Aurora Britton talks to Judith Caira (left), of Affordable Housing Solutions, and Stephanie Suarez (right), of Hope House, after Tuesday's commission meeting. Britton was concerned about traffic on Maryland Avenue, a road with no sidewalk that she often walks.

Organizers of Freedom's Path, however, agreed not to use an entrance on Maryland Avenue, which divides the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and the Highland Park neighborhood.

The decision, said Janice Kennedy, the medical center's community relations coordinator, was made not for veterans but "for the neighborhood."

Members of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association who asked for the concession insisted they were not opposed to the transitional housing project, just to its use of Maryland for access.

"We are not against veterans; we are not against the VA, or against the homeless vets or the people who are trying to help them," said association President Catherine Winbush.

While many walk along Maryland, it has no sidewalk, said Aurora Britton, who has lived in the area since the early 1950s.

Maryland's east shoulder is the VA fence, and Tuesday afternoon the road was busy with VA van traffic, trucks carrying supplies into the medical center and other vehicles, many driving in and out of the medical center via another gate on Maryland less than a tenth of a mile from the transitional housing site.

Unused since the Department of Veterans Affairs consolidated a nursing home and locked dormitory into its main hospital at the complex, the two buildings will be converted into 70 units of permanent and transitional "supportive housing," according to a document detailing security at the site.

Security will include gates accessible only with a key card or punch code and cameras at all entrances, the document said.

Only the presence of the fence could persuade longtime Highland Park resident Susan Chick, who recalled disabled veterans performing lewd acts just inside the fence decades ago.

"We're not dumb; we see what's being pulled over our eyes right now," said Chick's nephew Brandon Douglas, who also lives in the neighborhood.

Commissioner Bill Lockett, whose district includes Highland Park, said that he is a 20-year disabled veteran but that he disagreed with the VA's plans to use Maryland as an entrance.

"Maryland is not suited for what you wanted it to do," he said.

The only commissioner to vote against the zoning action was Jerry Brigham, who questioned the city's jurisdiction over the federal property.

While it is not designing an entrance on Maryland, ultimately Freedom's Path will use whatever entrance the VA authorizes, according to Judith Kaira of Affordable Housing Solutions, the developer of the project.

The $10 million undertaking is expected to open its first building of 20 units in about a year, Kaira said.

Comments (39) Add comment
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Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 05/05/10 - 05:46 am
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Good for them, but Jerry

Good for them, but Jerry brought up one good point, isn't this Fed property?

UncleBill
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UncleBill 05/05/10 - 07:31 am
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OK, the neighbors support the

OK, the neighbors support the vets, but don't want them walking down the street or to see them from the neighborhood, right?

Definition: "Hypocrisy is the act of pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, feelings, qualities, or standards that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy is thus a kind of lie. Hypocrisy may come from a desire to hide from others actual motives or feelings."

UncleBill
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UncleBill 05/05/10 - 07:32 am
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And while we are at it,

And while we are at it, everyone who has a Support the Troops sticker on the back of their car could also make a donation to Army Emergency Relief annually.

fishman960
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 08:16 am
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I for one am glad it is over.

I for one am glad it is over. But the true definition of hypocrisy is in the posts about this matter. I have not seen one other poster that lives on Maryland Ave like I do, so this issue truly affects none of you.

LRL1945
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LRL1945 05/05/10 - 08:28 am
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If Organizers of Freedom's

If Organizers of Freedom's Path, or the VA offered the folks on Maryland Ave to lease or purshase those houses for personal care homes for about 44-5 thousand a month, I bet you their whole attitude would change. I can see the traffice now, it is already back up to Daniel Village with people trying to get to all of the hospitals in the CRSA to work on a two lane road. Now add the downtown VA employees with the parking problems and having to be bused to work from the uptown hospital. So, you individuals on Maryland Ave, you need to leave about 6am to get to work by 7:30 or 8 and then stop your bitchen over a veteran. You know, I have NEVER heard of a homeless veteran shooting/killing anyone in the CRSA, you need to watch your neighbor and stop warrying about us, hell all we want is a roof over our heads and a place to eat and a job instead of existing out of a card board box..... Do you get it?

fishman960
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 04:08 pm
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I have removed this comment

I have removed this comment for violations of the comments policy.

joebowles
104
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joebowles 05/05/10 - 08:58 am
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Uncle Bill, Would you like it

Uncle Bill, Would you like it if a delusional person (veteran or not) comes to your back door at 2:00am and asks for a cigarette or a meal??????????????????????? This happens all the time in this area. What is wrong with protecting our neighborhoods?

fishman960
1420
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 09:01 am
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Why would a Vet be homeless

Why would a Vet be homeless in the first place? Why would a Vet not be able to hold a job? All the programs afforded to Veterans, and they can't eke out a living just like the rest of us? Reminds me of the episode of King of the hill when Cotton tried to get the Vietnam Vets to join the VFW. Everyone has the same opportunities in this life, it is up to them to take the right path.

fishman960
1420
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 09:03 am
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Joe, thank you. But most of

Joe, thank you. But most of the beggars at my door are looking for money or a ride somewhere.

Harrisburg Homeowner
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Harrisburg Homeowner 05/05/10 - 09:09 am
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UncleBill, I am offended by

UncleBill, I am offended by your remark. I am a war veteran but I am also a homeowner. I see both sides of the coin. There is a war veteran who lives up the street from me who walked drunk up my street one night, unzipped his pants, and peed against a tree across the street from me. My husband let him know he had seen him and did not appreciate his indecency. Many war veterans, including myself, have come back with disabilities. If not for the grace of God and the support of my family and the VA, I may have been one of those being housed in Hope House.

However, as a homeowner in a neighborhood currently affected by the problems a homeless day shelter (Mercy Ministries) inherently bring with it, I see the other side of the coin. I realize that many homeless have mental problems of some degree or another---especially war veterans who have been constantly exposed to months of the extreme stress of keeping oneself alive amid tremendous challenges (I was not one of those, thank God!). Those suffering from PTSD can have triggers that make them relive the war. Many have turned to self-medicating to deal with the stressors (alcohol). Many have lost families due to the problems that they brought back with them from the war.

While I am one of the lucky ones with a very good support system to help me deal with the problems I brought back with me. The ones who will live at the Hope House probably have only the VA and volunteers to help them recover. In the meantime, some may exhibit bizarre and frightening behaviors to those who do not understand them. The Highland Park Neighborhood deserves to feel safe, just as the Veterans deserve treatment.

Similarly, we, too, deserve to feel safe in our own neighborhood from the problems Mercy Ministries brought with it when it moved into our neighborhood.

Both sides have worked out a decent solution to the problem. Being able to sit down together to come up with a workable solution--to compromise--is America at its best.

Riverman1
79144
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Riverman1 05/05/10 - 09:33 am
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If that area is so bad now

If that area is so bad now with the homeless or whatever you call them as some have said without the veterans homeless apartments, how will not letting the homeless vets use that gate help?

Harrisburg Homeowner
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Harrisburg Homeowner 05/05/10 - 10:01 am
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LRL, While I sympathize with

LRL, While I sympathize with your situation, I do not see why you are so angry. The Highland Park Neighborhood never once said that they were opposed to the Hope House. They were just opposed to the gate being open for veterans to roam their neighborhoods.

You and I both know that many veterans have alcoholic or mental problems. You and I both know that those problems probably got you to the point where you either are now or were--living out of a cardboard box. Now, in all honesty, if you were not in this situation, would you really want that in your neighborhood? Of course not! Everyone deserves to have a litter-free, vagrant-free, crime-free place to live.

As for your remark about money, there are some people who value safety and peace of mind over money. I am one of them. I would never agree to such a thing in a stable neighborhood--or any neighborhood for that matter. That is why that had I known Mercy Ministries was coming to my neighborhood, I would have opposed it vehemently.

The homeless deserve food, shelter and clothing. They deserve people to give them a hand up--not a hand out. They deserve our kindness through contributions and volunteerism. But they do not have the right to trash our neighborhood in the process.

Neighbors also deserve the freedom to walk their streets without the fear of being victimized by some petty and other outright dangerous crimes--many of which come on the heels of such organizations.

Yes, I see both sides of the coin and I support each, realizing that each side has needs and each side can compromise--just as what happened yesterday.

Riverman1
79144
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Riverman1 05/05/10 - 10:08 am
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I'm agree neighborhoods

I'm agree neighborhoods should be safe and respectable, but again, it appears there is already a problem in that area with derelicts knocking on back doors at 2AM asking for a cigarette. The homeless veterans home is not even there now. So how will not letting the vets use that gate help when they don't appear to be the problem now?

fishman960
1420
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 10:19 am
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River, look at it like this.

River, look at it like this. When this project is complete it will have either a wrought iron or a metal fence surrounding it. Completely. With security entrances and such. The hospital already has a fence surrounding it. They want to put an entrance to it on a small back road but close it off completely from the main campus. Obviously for security reasons. Now I ask you, just who doesn't want this project in their backyard? The neighborhood for sure, but it seems the V.A. doesn't want it either. How else do you explain the perimeter fence?

gailkaitschuck
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gailkaitschuck 05/05/10 - 10:23 am
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This has nothing to do with

This has nothing to do with gates, metal fences or traffic flow.

It is simply a concern that folks don't want "those folks" (i.e., homeless vets) in their neighborhood.

A rather moot point as this VAMC has had a domicilliary program (housing homeless vets) on their campus for a fair number of years already.

Gail

Riverman1
79144
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Riverman1 05/05/10 - 10:24 am
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Fishman960, I see your point,

Fishman960, I see your point, but is it already as bad there now as some said? Do you think it's because of the VA campus or is it because of others?

fishman960
1420
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 10:38 am
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River, truly I have no

River, truly I have no problem with the Vets that I come into contact with (and many use the existing gate directly in front of my house). Either they walk to one of the surrounding stores or they are exercising. I converse with many of them and find nothing unusual with the ones I come into contact with. We have a lot of walkers on this street from the neighborhoods going to the bus stop. I have heard of the incidents, but the only thing we have witnessed is a worker peeing behind a dumpster.

estelgma
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estelgma 05/05/10 - 10:43 am
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To all of you who say that

To all of you who say that this issue had nothing to do with the Veterans are nuts. See what you are posting, it is all about the Homeless Veterans. The most ignorant thing here is the stereotyping going on. God forbid that any one of you might for one reason or another become homeless, someone might fear you then. Does that mean that you would be a menace to society??? So what if someone comes to you for some help, are they threatening to kill you if you can't help them. I pray that none of you claim to be a Christian, for the Word of God says, when you have done unto the least of these you have done unto me!! All I know is the VA Hospital and the Veterans were there long before those houses were, so what is the problem and what is to stop anyone from coming and going from the service gate when it is open??

fishman960
1420
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 02:24 pm
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There's a Veteran that lives

There's a Veteran that lives in the neighborhood that walks to the campus for treatment and what-not. He started a petition that I signed about the speeding on this street. I'm not sure where he presented it, but just recently the city posted new speed limit signs on this road. He's forever fussing at the people speeding along the road, shaking his hand at them. Most people don't adhere to the posted limit and that is a large part of this problem.

fishman960
1420
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 10:55 am
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Estel, there is a gate 100

Estel, there is a gate 100 yards from the proposed (and not granted) gate. It will be used, rest assured. What's the big deal about walking an extra 100 yards to leave campus when they will have to walk at least a quarter of a mile to get anywhere (bus stop, store) in the first place?

UncleBill
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UncleBill 05/05/10 - 12:38 pm
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To the residents on Maryland

To the residents on Maryland Ave, if my remarks are too strong I do apologize.
The things that triggers my response is that the VA hospital has been there for many years, and I hear all the time about support the vets, and support the troops, etc.
Here is an opportunity to do something.
I cannot condone inapproprite behaviour by veterans.

lifelongresidient
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lifelongresidient 05/05/10 - 01:59 pm
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why not empty out the

why not empty out the projects and use that for supportive housing for the vets, elderly and the truly disabled...the single momma's with the 4 kids and 4 "baby's daddies" it's time to start paying your own way

LRL1945
0
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LRL1945 05/05/10 - 01:59 pm
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No fishman, I maybe can find

No fishman, I maybe can find a GP medium tent that will house 20-22 and I may be able to set it in your front yard. No, I am a Viet Nam disabled veteran and I recall lthe spits in the face etc and this junk just brings it back a little bit more. You already have one hope house in your front/back yard area if you look on highland ave. Amazing isn't it? It just seems that anything and everything that this city tries to do to benefit or for the betterment of the city EVERYBODY FIGHTS IT, whether it is school, vets, jobs, makes no difference what the cause it is fought. I just wonder what it takes to keep people happy, while some progress is taking place.

Uncle Bill you are exactly right and I loved your comment. This hospital has been here many many years. And if by some chance the gov't wanted to close it It would be another fight, Why are you doing this? We need and love our veterans! I give up. This argument is not worth my time or engery. Because you know something, it is Fed property and hopefully something can and will be worked out. I know I can't take on city hall and that is exactly what it is. Did you ever see them when they decided to do something that they didn't do it regardless of who likes it or not....

LRL1945
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LRL1945 05/05/10 - 02:03 pm
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Fishman, I agree on the

Fishman, I agree on the speeding, coming out the VA gate from a doctors appointment I have come real close 2-3 times getting T-boned by people driving away over the limit. Infact I bet the man left some skids along the road trying to get away from me...

fishman960
1420
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 02:16 pm
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LRL, your last comment hit

LRL, your last comment hit the nail on the head. Traffic is my issue, and nothing more. When did you ever see me post that I did not want the Vet's there. I can't speak for the lady down the street but I see near accidents all the time sitting on my porch (I'm sure you have seen me and I have probably seen you). You made my argument for me when you said "I have come real close 2-3 times getting T-boned by people driving away over the limit". My daughter has a bicycle she can't ride or even go near that road and at a posted 25 mile an hour speed limit, it shouldn't be that way. But I am a selfless person, so I say, bring on a tent. Just keep the damn traffic away from this narrow road.

fishman960
1420
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 02:23 pm
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Better yet, the house next

Better yet, the house next door to me is for sale. It is a 4 bed 2 bath brick home with a huge back yard. How about some of you posters collectively pool your money and purchase this home for the homeless? It will be another year before the first 20 rooms are available. Put your money where your mouth is! It's only $35,000.00. That's chicken scratch to most of you. Everyone wants to have an opinion but no one wants to put up any help.

gailkaitschuck
18
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gailkaitschuck 05/05/10 - 02:31 pm
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The HUD house next to you has

The HUD house next to you has a contract on it. www.hud.gov

fishman960
1420
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 02:37 pm
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There are plenty other houses

There are plenty other houses close for sale. Are you a Realtor Gail or did you look to purchase?

AWyld1
3
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AWyld1 05/05/10 - 03:36 pm
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These veterans and others

These veterans and others like them are the reason you even have a house in the first place. I sympathize with your plight but you can do things to keep peopleoff your poperty. Insulting people because they don't live on your street won't get you much help. Mr. Bowles I usually agree with you but you might wanna tone it down.You live in a military town and probably rely on a lot of veterans and current military as your constituents. I have no problem with protecting neighborhoods but where has your public outrage been for the residents of Harrisburg and other neighborhoods? Also, we should not be giving one dollar of welfare to able bodied people while there is even 1 homeless veteran in our country!!

fishman960
1420
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fishman960 05/05/10 - 04:01 pm
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Folks, I have received a LOT

Folks, I have received a LOT of negative feedback on this issue. Look, I don't really care who comes or goes on the other side of that fence, all I am trying to do is keep my street safe for my daughter and I to be safe on. Not from predators, from speeders. One time, my daughter was walking to her bus stop and tripped on a piece of curb that was protruding. She fell into the middle of the road. thank God no car was coming! She would have been run over for sure. Now y'all can keep making me out to be against Veterans, but that isn't true. Each and every one of you would try to make your street safe for your children if you had to, and you know it! If not, you aren't too concerned with your Child's safety. If it wasn't about Veterans moving in and some other group, most of y'all wouldn't give a flip. So y'all go ahead and hate me because you think I am against Vet's but all I want is a safe street for my daughter.

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