Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) made a visit to Columbia Monday and took a tour of one of the city’s homeless veteran shelters.
Hartzler met with leaders from Welcome Home, Inc. at their transitional living center on Rangeline, which houses up to 11 homeless veterans at one time. Welcome Home is a program that helps homeless veterans find jobs and permanent housing after they return from service.
Leaders from Welcome Home discussed with Hartzler some of the problems they face when trying to help homeless veterans, including limited space and long wait lists. They are combatting this by building a new $3.5 million living facility for veterans on Business Loop 70 called Patriot Place. The local VA and Housing Authority are also helping to fund and build the facility.
Hartzler said she thinks more can be done in addition to creating more space for homeless veterans.
“The need is great, but I think we need to focus on trying to help the underlying issues, whether it be mental health issues or drug addiction, or other issues that are causing that,” said Hartzler.
Construction began on Patriot Place earlier this year. About $2.2 million in additional funding is still needed to complete it.
Sarah Grim, the CEO of Welcome Home, said she had been emailing Hartzler numerous times inviting her to see the facility.
“One of the important facets of this community project is being able to keep everybody – from the leadership in Washington to leadership in the state of Missouri – informed of the progress and yet still the need of capital funding,” said Grim.
Grim said the program receives funding to shelter homeless veterans for up to six months, but they usually run into trouble finding permanent places for them to leave, forcing them to stay longer. She said the expanded space provided by Patriot Place would allow veterans to pass through fewer barriers to gain permanent housing in Columbia.
“They want to be permanently housed,” said Grim. “They don’t like it when we tell them, ‘Well, that’s closed right now for the next two months, and this is full, so you’re kind of just stuck.’”
Patriot Place is currently in its first of three construction phases and needs about $200,000 to complete the first phase. Grim said there is no timeframe on when the project will be fully completed.