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Thu, Sept. 19

New facility found for homeless veterans

By Patrick Whitehurst/The Daily Courier<br>
U.S. Vets administrators will move homeless veterans from their current location to new temporary housing, pictured above, by July 4. The vets will reside there for at least a year until a bigger site is located.

By Patrick Whitehurst/The Daily Courier<br> U.S. Vets administrators will move homeless veterans from their current location to new temporary housing, pictured above, by July 4. The vets will reside there for at least a year until a bigger site is located.

PRESCOTT, Arizona - Despite a lease extension for homeless veterans living at the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System in Prescott, allowing vets who reside there to stay two more months, administrators with U.S. Vets said they plan to move sooner than their new mid-August deadline.

The recent extension counts as the second extension granted by the Prescott VA after notifying the U.S. Vets organization in December that they would have to relocate their homeless veterans program by June 1. Due to an inspection delay at their new location, U.S. Vets program director Annette Olson said that deadline was extended to June. 30.

Recent media exposure extended that deadline yet again, giving U.S. Vets until Aug. 15 to move to their new 21-room accommodations on Gurley Street, just half a block or so from the U.S. Vets administration offices, Olson said.

"We had some national exposure with the media and that led to further negotiations with our Veterans Affairs leadership, who saw that they gave us a very tight turnaround, and were willing to give us until Aug. 15 to move instead of June 30," Olson said.

Despite that extension, U.S. Vets plans to be moved into their new location by Friday, July 4.

Prescott VA public affairs officer Mary Dillinger said in a statement Friday the space currently used by U.S. Vets would be utilized for clinical staff, including members of the Homeless Primary Care Team (H-PACT).

Donna Jacobs, Medical Center Director at the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System, meanwhile, said lease discussions with U.S. Vets continues.

"There is no final move-out date set; discussions are still in progress," Jacobs said.

Jacobs said U.S. Vets will need funding for furniture for their new location, as well as moving expenses, and is currently seeking community support to cover these costs. The Prescott VA is not authorized to use appropriated funds to cover these expenses, according to Friday's statement, but VA staff provided veterans contact information for local veteran services and nonprofit organizations.

A new six-week extension, Olson said, does not solve long-term issues for the program and the efforts of U.S. Vets at much-needed expansion. Their new Gurley Street site does solve the matter on a temporary basis.

"It was offered by local business owner Lonnie and Susan Daniels," Olson said. "They were willing to do this for us on a temporary basis to help the veterans in their time of need. We have a one-year lease with an option to do month-to-month after that, and we'll use the month-to-month if we're not able to build and/or remodel something that is large enough for our program in the future."

She called their temporary location both "beautiful" and "ideal." Ultimately, however, the site is too small for long-term use.

"It's ideal for temporary," Olson said. "The rooms are sized small, medium and large, so there can be different amounts of people in each room. Some will have bunk beds."

The organization, Olson said, will quickly focus their capital campaign and fundraisers on finding a large enough campus to house approximately 56 veteran residents and U.S. Vets staff, with additional space for job training centers and more.

"For long-term expansion we need to do a capital campaign, fundraising, find, build or remodel something to suit our program," Olson said, adding that the capital campaign could be launched over the next 12 months.

The Gurley Street location also features a commercial kitchen that Olson plans to use for a culinary arts vocational rehabilitation program with support from the community.

"We would like to start with training for the people in our program, for employment opportunities, but we could also expand it to the community if it grows," she said.

To make a donation or for further information, contact U.S. Vets at 928-583-7678.

Follow reporter Patrick Whitehurst on Twitter @pwdcourier

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