Janesville25.5°

Project offers hope to homeless veterans

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ANN MARIE AMES
July 30, 2010
— You can see the scope of the project in Angel Eggers’ face.

One moment, she beams thinking about the ways the new program will help people. The next moment, her face clouds at the thought of the people who need help.


Eggers is executive director of Rock Valley Community Programs, which is located in the former Caravilla Nursing Home, 203 W. Sunny Lane Road, Janesville.


This winter, Rock Valley plans to start a transitional housing program for homeless veterans. Qualified veterans would be able to participate in the Housing 4 Our Vets program for up to 24 months.


A safe place to live could be an island of stability for veterans struggling to re-adjust to life in southern Wisconsin, Eggers said. The adjustment is so difficult that some vets seek to return to active duty overseas, she said.


Many veterans suffer from undiagnosed mental illnesses such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, she said. Self-medication for such illnesses can lead to addiction.


It’s a tough cycle that often leaves a veteran estranged from or unable to live safely with his or her family, Eggers said.


“Hopefully just for a moment,” she said.


The veterans housing program would be separate from the residential re-entry programs the facility already runs for state and federal inmates.


But the two programs will have many similarities, Eggers said.


The veterans program would include assessments and treatment for addiction, mental illness or medical issues, Eggers said.


Those programs and others already are available for the 85 corrections clients currently living at the facility, Eggers said.


Volunteer opportunities would be available for people who want to support veterans, Eggers said. For example, volunteers could serve as drivers or mentors for veterans, she said.


The $660,000 project will include complete renovation of a 24-room wing at Caravilla. Each room would be able to house two veterans.


The rooms will include bathrooms and kitchenettes.


Rock Valley anticipates getting a $440,000 grant from the Veterans Administration for the project. Staff and volunteers will raise the rest of the money, Eggers said.


Local businesses including Welcome Home Interior, Marling Lumber and CCI already have donated the labor and materials for one room. Construction is expected to start Oct. 1.


Rock Valley Community Programs has been located in the former Caravilla Nursing Home facility since 1999. Eggers said the non-profit bought the building in April. Mid City Development Corporation, a Hendricks Development Group’s company, had owned the property.


Changing from for-profit to nonprofit status really opened the door as far as programming is concerned, Eggers said.


For example, veterans will be able to refer themselves for services, Eggers said. References also will come from public and private service organizations.


Veterans could live anywhere in Wisconsin, Michigan’s Lower Peninsula or northern Illinois, Eggers said.


She anticipates most will be from Rock County.


Jon Solis, the county’s veterans services officer, said it’s hard to know for certain how many members of Rock County’s homeless population are veterans.


Federal statistics indicate 25 percent of homeless individuals are veterans. Solis doesn’t think the number is that high in Rock County.


He does on occasion work with a veteran who is homeless or on the verge of being so. However, many veterans—homeless or otherwise—don’t seek services in the first place, Solis said.


Some veterans don’t admit they are veterans in order to avoid being stigmatized, Eggers said. Others simply don’t realize they qualify for assistance, Solis said.


“They just don’t automatically think there might be programs out there to help them,” he said.


Addressing homelessness

Volunteers found 17 homeless people living outdoors in Rock County during an overnight count this week, said Marc Perry director of planning and development for Community Action of Rock and Walworth Counties.


The Rock County Homeless Intervention Task Force count took place late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. The task force conducts the count twice per year.


Volunteers search for people living on the streets. Workers also tally the number of people living in shelters or staying at hotels with emergency vouchers.


The count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The results help determine the needs of the local homeless population.


The Gazette will report the full results of the count when the numbers are available.


TO LEARN MORE

Rock Valley Community Programs is a non-profit organization that provides transitional housing services for people leaving state and federal correctional facilities. The facility is located between Beloit and Janesville.


This fall, Rock Valley anticipates opening a new wing to provide housing for homeless veterans. Many of the veterans could be from Rock County.


Volunteer opportunities will be available to support veterans.


Stay in touch with the project by searching for “Caravilla Homeless Transitional Housing Program” on Facebook or visit rvcp.org.

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