Columbia's new permanent housing is ready to serve veterans

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COLUMBIA — The Columbia Housing Authority (CHA) and the Truman VA are scheduled to celebrate the completion of the Patriot Place Apartments for Veterans on Thursday afternoon.

The 25 one-bedroom apartments for veterans are part of the collaboration between CHA, the Truman VA and the Welcome Home, Inc. 

The project started in 2014, and it's aimed at creating a campus for veterans in Columbia.

The apartments will be located  at 2112 Business Loop 70 East.

The Patriot Place is designed to provide permanent housing for 25 homeless veterans in the community, and now it's half-full since the first veteran moved in last month.

The apartments are expected to filled up by the end of June.

Stephen Gaither, public affairs officer at the Truman VA Hospital, said the philosophy they used for helping veterans is housing first.

"It's very difficult to get a job if you don't have a place to live," Gaither said. It's very difficult to have food and meals and prepare those meals if you don't have a place to live."

Sarah Froese, the VA's Psychosocial Rehabilitation Program Supervisor, said the community has a great demand for housing homeless veterans.

"We do a lot of outreach with the community to make sure we're finding anyone who are homeless," Froese said. "If they're veterans, we're gonna look into that and do a vulnerability index on them and kind of look at what the situation is."

She said they give priority to the ones who have higher scores on the index.

"They may be living in a situation where they're living in the woods, they don't have any kind of support systems, they are struggling with any kind of psychosocial problem that they may have," Froese said. "We work with them and look at it and if they're at risk of getting harmed on the street. We're gonna make sure that chronically homeless veterans are placed and housing first."

The veterans who live in the apartments would have to pay 30 percent of their income for the rent, and the program will help those who are unemployed to find a job, Froese said.

In addition to the fully-furnished apartments, the Patriot Place has a fitness room, computer lab and laundry facilities. 

On the other side the campus, Welcome Home plans to break ground for a veteran's shelter in the near future. The facility will expand the housing capacity for homeless veterans to 32 emergency shelter beds for both men and women.

Welcome Home currently has housing for only nine male veterans. The project is expected to be completed before Memorial Day next year.