Freedom's Path hopes to get some veterans off the street

Saturday, Aug 17, 2013 9:03 PM
Last updated Sunday, Aug 18, 2013 2:21 AM
  • Follow Latest News

Still within reach of the federal government’s goal to end veteran homelessness by 2015, a multimillion-dollar public-housing development in Augusta appears to be moving forward despite four years of zoning, funding and construction delays.

Back | Next
Plans are in the works to turn Building 76 at the uptown campus of Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center into apartments for veterans as part of the goal to end veteran homelessness.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Plans are in the works to turn Building 76 at the uptown campus of Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center into apartments for veterans as part of the goal to end veteran homelessness.

Wesley Brown
E-mail | 706-823-3221

By late fall, developers plan to begin renovating three endangered properties on the uptown campus of the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center into a long-term treatment facility known as “Freedom’s Path,” said Karen Saltzman, the executive director of Hope House, one of three nonprofits leading the project. The other two are Affordable Housing Solutions Inc. and the Cooperative Resource Center.

The historic buildings are scheduled to be transformed into 92 permanent and transitional apartments for struggling veterans. The buildings include a residence hall and a tuberculosis hospital built for World War I veterans, and a World War II-style mental-health clinic built in 1945 to help returning troops battle post-traumatic stress.

The project totals top $8 million, but Saltzman said contract talks remain fluid and could be prolonged, depending on the fundraising needs of each structure’s rehabilitation, which one preservationist said could require extensive upgrades.

“It is a really complicated project that has taken four years to pull together, but once completed, Freedom’s Path should cut out some of the major problems we are facing in our community,” Saltzman said.

THE IDEA OF REFURBISHING buildings 7, 18 and 70 into a “vibrant residential community” was initiated in May 2009 as a way to provide housing and support services, such as counseling, transportation and job training, to homeless veterans.

After agreeing to satisfy a request of its Highland Park neighbors and restrict patients to a secured entrance on Wrightsboro Road that’s staffed 24 hours a day, the Freedom’s Path development won Augusta Com­mission approval in May 2010.

Since then, Freedom’s Path progress has been slowed by negotiations over an enhanced-use lease the three developers entered into with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to rent and restore the three properties in exchange for cash and in-kind services.

The agreement made it difficult to finalize project funding, which consists of historic preservation tax credits, contributions from private donors and grant money from the VA and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The three buildings have sat empty and unused since the VA consolidated a nursing home and locked dormitory into its main hospital at the complex.

Left inside are patient toothbrushes, name tags and pill bottles – small reminders of what life used to be like in the building in the 1930s, when the VA used to drug and lock in veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, Saltzman said.

She said the goal of Freedom’s Path is to “create a relaxing, quiet place that’s for veterans and run by veterans.”

ERICK MONTGOMERY, THE executive director of Historic Augusta, walked through buildings 7 and 76 last summer and said the properties are in “pretty fair structural condition” but have not been maintained or used in years and need new flooring and lighting fixtures, along with upgrades to its plumbing and air-conditioning systems.

“They are not move-in ready, by any means,” Montgomery said.

To help expedite the project, he said Historic Augusta will provide guidance on what needs to be done to respect the historical character of the buildings, while modifying each structure to meet modern standards.

First, asbestos will be remediated, lead paint removed, mildew- and rust-coated walls and doors cleaned and windows and cast-iron grates polished and reinforced with spring locks to meet fire safety codes.

By the end of 2014, developers hope to have Building 76 renovated into 50 one-bedroom apartments – each with a refrigerator, stove and bathroom. It has a laundry room on each of its three stories and a gym, plus a computer lab to equip veterans with resources they need to find jobs and lead productive, healthy lives.

Building 7 and 18 will each have 20 apartments – each with smaller “efficiencies” – and a central kitchen.

Montgomery said he is encouraged by the goal of Freedom’s Path to breathe new life into some of the city’s most historic buildings and believes the development could lead to the preservation of other buildings on the VA’s uptown campus.

“It speaks a lot to the values of a community that its leaders and residents respect their past and want to reintegrate historical structures into their future,” Montgomery said.

The VA has committed more than $1.1 billion in the past two years to strengthen programs that prevent and end veteran homelessness. The result, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki estimates, is a 17.2 percent decline in veteran homelessness since 2009, according to a recent news release.

Comments (11) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
fishman960 08/17/13 - 11:22 pm

Sure will be nice to see this project completed.

the compromiser
the compromiser 08/18/13 - 03:10 am
About Time

It is about time we take the high roads and get some place for the homeless Veterans. We don't know what got them in the state of mind they are in but I know they signed their name(s) on the dotted line to protect the consitution of the United States of America. Just that alone, we should do all we can for our Veterans. We see to many of our Soldiers walking the streets with no place to go and nothing to do. We look at them as though they are criminals. In so many words they are asking for help. Some of those Vets lost their families, loved ones or just plain out, lost their minds because of the war. It makes me feel good about those who are going beyond the call of duty to help those who fought for our country so we can do what we are doing today.

soldout 08/18/13 - 04:17 am
good plan

Sounds like a good idea. Once there have some EFT training available to them and teach them the Word and they will be out and productive very soon.

corgimom 08/18/13 - 05:50 am
The compromiser, some of them

The compromiser, some of them are so badly damaged, they will never be able to work. They are just too ill.

There is an idea that all of them can be helped, all of them can turn their lives around. Some can, some will, but for some, no, they never will.

And not all of them want help, and you can't force people to accept help that they don't want.

soapy_725 08/18/13 - 09:34 am
Great Plan !! Sorely needed !! But its government run?

Great Plan !! Sorely needed !! But its government run?

bclicious 08/18/13 - 12:23 pm
Good comments

As opposed to the other article which is listed on this site concerning veteran homelessness, the commenters on here seem to be supporting veterans.

As a disabled combat veteran myself, I know some of the hardships that these veterans go through.

On the one side, I know that some people don't want help from anyone. So be it.

On the other side, I know that the VA is well-funded for the most part, and there are many resources for veterans; however, few know how to access those benefits. Also, I can say from my own personal experience that I learn something new about my benefits and the process to access those benefits. The process is almost always never cut and dry.

So, I think that as good as the VA is, there should be individual case workers assigned to each individual veteran who is trying to access his or her benefits, and actively needs help. Whether this person is employed by the VA, or is a volunteer, makes no difference to me. This person would guide each veteran from step A to Z in whichever benefit or benefits that he/she is trying to access. Also, this person could make recommendations about additional benefits along the way that the veteran may not be aware of.

Guys it really is that complicated.

corgimom 08/18/13 - 01:22 pm
bclicious, Medicare and

bclicious, Medicare and Social Security isn't any better.

The regulations of all of them are so complicated, so messed up, so contradictory, that nobody could ever explain them. VA, Medicare, Social Security- you ask 10 different people a question, you'll get 10 different answers, and they all will have documentation for their answer. And they will all be right, and they will all be wrong.

JENNPAT 08/18/13 - 03:42 pm

thank God someone is thinking about them i remember when some of the buildings that doctors who worked at the hospital lived there and then there a bigger house on the ground that the doctor who was over the va hospital lived in my day who was a brick mason helped to bulider some of these of buildrens he wark for the va i remember as a young child we would go up there so i hope everthing goes well and they can get theses buildings done

corgimom 08/18/13 - 09:21 pm
Now, this may sound callous.

Now, this may sound callous.

Homeless people have an underground network. They all talk.

If housing is provided for all homeless vets in Augusta, they will flock from all 50 states. It will be overwhelming. Augusta will be inundated with thousands of homeless vets, who will all expect to be housed. The word will go out- "Go to Augusta, you will get free housing."

This is one of the reasons why Augusta has such a homeless problem, it's 5th in the nation per capita for homeless services. And they are like everybody else, they go where life is the best.

Sometimes good ideas start out as good ideas, as great ideas, and then turn into not-so-good ideas. Hope this isn't one of them.

oldredneckman96 08/18/13 - 10:02 pm
Pendleton Camp for Veterans

On April 5th, 1922, in Richmond County, Georgia, a Henry B. King set in a Declaration of Trust, a 20 acre tract to be known as Pendleton Camp. This was a memorial to his son, John Pendleton King who had been killed in WWI in France. This camp was to benefit the wounded and disabled soldiers who had served in the U.S. Armed Forces. For many years, a Clarence T. Barinowski, a Carlon S. Faulk and Virginia Lehmann were members of the Board of Directors of Pendleton Camp. They did a great job of placing those deserving in the homes and maintaining the grounds and keeping the city of Augusta from taking the property. However, by 1995 a new group of trustees were evicting the last of the veterans and families who had lived there. The Law Firm of Fulcher, Hagler, Reed, Hanks and Harper was apparently running the Camp.
Now, as we all know, there are many veterans needing a home, while Pendleton Camp is occupied by fewer than a half dozen or so homes and a Memorial lot with a placard on a stone explaining the Camp. There you will find a flagpole that my grand-uncle raised old Glory on everyday from his return from WWI to his end in the 70’s, sadly, it is now never raised. When you turn off Wrightsborro Road and head south on Johns Road, in just a block or so you will find Johns Road Ext./Mame Road on the right. Do not let the “Private” “Keep Out” signs stop you, it is a public road. Pendleton Camp is as public as the Pendleton King Park just a few blocks away on Troup Street both named for the same John Pendleton King for many reasons.
I write this to let the veterans of Augusta know about this place and what it was for. It will take someone with a bit of legal knowledge and a lot of “don’t quit” attitude to put it back to its intended use.
Good Luck and thank you for your service.

d1zmljqg 08/19/13 - 08:21 am
Hope springs eternal

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come."

Alexander Pope

Back to Top
Top headlines

Man arrested for Sunday's fatal shooting

Walter L. Johnson, 60, was booked into the Richmond County jail Tuesday on charges of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Search Augusta jobs