Cooperation creates campus plan for Columbia veterans

Deluxe Inn on Business Loop would house homeless veterans

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A partnering of three local agencies would create a campus to house dozens of homeless and struggling veterans in Columbia.

The plan, announced Wednesday afternoon, has been in the works for years between Welcome Home, Inc., the Truman VA, and the Columbia Housing Authority.

The partners need community commitment to make the dream a reality, though. The campus site, at 2112 Business Loop 70 East, needs nearly $6 million to be transformed.

"So we are really asking the community and individuals to dig deep," said Welcome Home, Inc, executive director Aneisa Sherrill-Mattox. "And when I say dig deep, I mean we are going to need to raise a lot of money for the shelter part."

The so-called campus, on the site of the current Deluxe Inn, would be split between 25 one bedroom apartments for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) qualified candidates.

Another building would be split into 29 units for temporary beds for homeless veterans, along with Welcome Home, Inc. support services. Currently, Welcome Home, Inc. has room for just nine male veterans.

"You know they sort of say, 'if you build it they will come.' Well, since we started doing permanent housing and started working with partners in the community to make sure our veterans are placed and taken care of, I've noticed we've grown," said Sarah Froese, a psychosocial rehabilitation team supervisor with the Truman Veterans Hospital.

The Columbia Housing Authority said it was pursuing federal home loans and grants to help pay for the project. It expected to hear back on those this summer and fall.

At an interested parties meeting Wednesday night, some neighbors who live down a hill behind the motel expressed joy over the project but concerns over infrastructure.

One neighbor said sewer and stormwater often rush onto her property now, even with few guests at the motel. She said she worried about what would happen when the capacity of the site increased.

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