Homeless program has VA neighbors concerned

A potential housing program for homeless veterans at the Uptown VA hospital has some in the Summerville area concerned about its impact on their neighborhood. But VA officials said the program will be structured and that a homeless program already there is causing no adverse effects.

About 40 people attended a public hearing Monday on a potential transitional housing program for homeless veterans at the Uptown Division of the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center. The site is one of 150 nationwide where the VA is evaluating unused buildings and land for community programs.

The hearing is one of the first steps toward reusing two buildings and about seven acres on the Uptown site, and in the next several weeks a request for proposals will go out seeking developers to create and operate the programs, said Kelli Emery, the project manager with the Office of Asset Enterprise Management for the VA. The VA does not provide funding for the programs and expects in-kind services for veterans, such as counseling and job training, in return for use of the space.

Neighbors Colin Thompson and Beth Dale were concerned about what a homeless program could do to the area.

"Is it going to be like downtown where you see the homeless wandering through the neighborhood?" Mrs. Dale asked.

The residents of the transitional program will be appropriate for the setting and should not be a concern, said Kathleen Scott, the director of homeless initiatives for the Augusta VA. For eight years the Uptown Division has had a 60-bed program that mainly houses the homeless, she said.

"It's going to be no different," Ms. Scott said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.