New shelter in Columbia welcomes homeless veterans
COLUMBIA - Welcome Home had the grand opening of its new facility Thursday morning. It offers 32 rooms with 34 beds that include female and family housing for the first time. It took three years and a total of $3.2 million raised through donations to build.
"We are so excited that Welcome Home, the housing authority, and Truman VA sat together and talked about what we really needed for this community and this was it, and that was in 2014, and to think that our community has come together and to have this here at this day is just the most exciting thing," Sarah Froese from Truman VA said.
The new facility provides emergency and transitional shelter to veterans who are homeless or at the risk of becoming homeless.
"The VA tells us we have 700 homeless veterans in the state of Missouri and we’ve been told were the only veterans-exclusive shelter and transitional service center in the state, so it’s a very exciting day for us,” said the director of Welcome Home ,Timothy Rich.
Aside from the 32 rooms, Welcome Home's new facility includes a full commercial kitchen, dinning space, laundry room, ADA compliant rooms, a computer lab which will house the Vets Work Employment Program.
“Last year, we had an 80 percent success rate moving our veterans off the streets and into permanent housing within 90 days, which is phenomenal,” Rich said. "And that's our goal, to get you back on your feet into independent housing and be a productive citizen once again.”
Rich said it's "unbelievable" so many local businesses donated services and cash.
"We're just so grateful of those who contributed time, money, energy, and all kinds of influence to make this a reality today,” he said.
Although Welcome Home originally planned for veterans to move into the shelter Thursday, that date has been pushed back to September 1, 2018 because some furnishings are on back order. Even with that small hindrance, Froese said, the shelter is still meeting a immediate need here in Columbia.
"Any given day we may have to take a veteran and place them in other places out in communities not in Columbia because the contracts we have are full, and Welcome Home has had to send veterans away, so being able not to do that and have them right here in Columbia is incredible," Froese said.
Others at the ribbon cutting said the same thing.
"The community really rallied around homeless veterans. We're really excited about it," said Phil Steinhaus CEO of Columbia Housing Authority.
The director of Veterans United Foundation, Greg Steinhoff, said, "This project means so much to so many people just because it required literally the community, the businesses, and everybody to kind of come together."
Lt. Gen. Rich Harding said, “This is what the power of a community can do. Today we salute our own community.”