Facility that helps homeless veterans officially open

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) A new facility is helping homeless veterans get back on their feet.

State and local officials held a dedication ceremony for The Richard Lugar Safe Haven for Veterans Tuesday.

Don White, a Vietnam War Veteran came to the Richard Lugar Safe Haven for Veterans back in February, right after the facility opened. He had heart problems and had been on and off the street for about five years.

“I was on the verge of passing away. Lisa and Sharon and everybody here, they took it in their own hands to keep me around,” said White.

Lisa Christen, Regional Program Director for Volunteers of America Indiana, estimated that nearly 400 people are homeless on any given night here in Fort Wayne. More than 80 are veterans.

“This facility is a very unique facility. It’s designed to just provide shelter, to provide case management and also just recovery from homelessness from addictions from mental illness, whatever. We are designed to meet the veteran wherever they are,” said Christen.

The Volunteers of America facility offers 25 beds, for honorably discharged homeless veterans, referred from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

They can stay for up to six-months, as they transition to permanent housing.

Leaders said most can either get into permanent housing or a long-term treatment facility within three or four months.

So far, the center has already helped 48 veterans, including White, who is now living on his own.

“They work with you to get your feet back on the ground, which is a lot of us need. A lot of us don’t know how to begin to do it. And i knew how to do it, but I just needed help pushing me that way. I’ve been thankful every since,” said White.

“Serving veterans, people who have given their service to us, it’s just a way to give back to them. No one deserves to be homeless and especially our veterans,” said Christen.

Former United States Senator from Indiana, Richard Lugar was a panel member last year in a conversation with the Volunteers of America, focusing on homelessness.

He received a letter in February from the president, asking for permission to name the facility after him.

“My feeling was obviously one of being honored, but at the same time, eager if I could lend my name to it to try to bring some new momentum and enthusiasm to the project,” said Lugar.

If you need help, you can either go through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or walk into this facility, located on 2424 Fairfield Avenue, to get connected.

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