Last Tuesday afternoon, local veterans made their homes in our new Welcome Home emergency and transitional shelter building. “We’re finally transitioning, moving all of our programs and all of our veterans over here,” said Welcome Home board member and Army veteran, Joseph Blanton. “The veterans are moving in today, we’ve got all of our clinical staff moving in as well, so this is our first big step in our new facility. I’ve had the opportunity to be here since the beginning stages, so it’s great to see that idea come to fruition.”
The new building has more than twice the capacity of the previous building, which held only 11. The handicap-friendly facility can hold up to 34 veterans and their family members. Among other amenities, the new facility has a commercial kitchen, community space, laundry room and a computer lab, where residents can study for classes, work on their resumes and prepare for job interviews.
“It’s important for us to be able to provide not only the environment for them, but the tools and resources necessary in order to secure independent housing,” said Welcome Home Development Director, Megan Sievers. “[The veterans] are coming into a home that is very open and airy, but they also have their own personal space to hang their clothes, lay their heads, have a nice warm shower with privacy.”
In the coming year, we’re hoping to house around 250 veterans and grow the organization to better serve the 14 surrounding counties. While we housed 124 veterans in 2016, space limitations forced us to find other ways to help homeless veterans. “We work triage first. If every room is full, we’ll get a hotel voucher or find an alternative shelter for them until one opens,” Sievers said.
After staying in a hotel, Lenard and Tavion Robinson were able to move into their new home at Welcome Home last week. Lenard Robinson is a two-year veteran from Florida. At 43, Robinson is focused on finding a job as a glazier. Tavion, his 12-year-old son, attends Jefferson Middle School and loves basketball. For Robinson, finding Welcome Home allowed him to learn about all the veteran support systems available in Columbia, while giving him and his son a safe, secure place to stay during this transition.
Last year, we had an 80 percent success rate of moving vets off the streets and into independent housing within 90 days. With support from the community and our partners, we will continue honoring veterans and restoring more lives.