HAGERSTOWN — Homeless female veterans in Maryland will soon have a place they can call home.
Way Station Inc. of Frederick, Md., parent organization of Turning Point of Washington County, plans to start work this summer on a 27-bed facility on East North Avenue in Hagerstown that will serve as a home for homeless female veterans in the state.
Way Station’s program, known as Welcome Home, will expand upon its success helping homeless male veterans transition into secure employment and housing by adding a facility with a priority of helping female veterans, said Scott Rose, executive director of Way Station.
“It’s time,” Turning Point Director Nancy Woods said. “These women are veterans and our country needs to take responsibility for them.”
The organization has operated a 16-bed facility for male veterans on Washington Street for the past few years, Woods said.
Program Director Jo Ann Dooley, a licensed clinical social worker and advanced-practice nurse, will run both Welcome Home programs once the one for females is up and running, Woods said.
Way Station began working on the program for females more than a year ago, Rose said.
The not-for-profit organization received a zoning exception from the City of Hagerstown in 2009 to convert the Turning Point office at 25 E. North Ave. into the Welcome Home house, City Planning Director Kathy Maher said in an email.
Turning Point is in the process of moving its offices to the old armory on North Potomac Street.
Way Station received a certificate of appropriateness from Hagerstown’s Historic District Commission on March 10. The certificate includes allowing the organization to replace windows in the old office building to accommodate air conditioners.
Once everything is in place and renovations are complete, Rose said he anticipates being able to “welcome home” the first veteran in summer 2012.
Welcome Home is a partnership between three state agencies, two federal agencies and Way Station, Rose said.
Funding for the building renovation will come from the Maryland Departments of Housing and Community Development and Health and Mental Hygiene, he said.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Labor will provide funding for the program once the building has been renovated. The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs will provide assistance where necessary, Rose said.
Rose said statistics indicate that 11 percent of homeless veterans are female.
While there are other homes for homeless veterans in Maryland, Welcome Home in Hagerstown will be unique, he said.
Rose said the program will integrate supportive employment — a practice where veterans will be integrated into competitive jobs — as well as customized employment — where Welcome Home will work with employers to customize jobs to a veteran’s needs.
The program’s goal is to help the veterans find sustainable employment and land on their feet, Rose said.
“This will be their home,” Rose said. “When someone doesn’t have a home and then they get one, they tend to appreciate it much more than the rest of us.”
Rose said Way Station specializes in working with people who have mental-health challenges. He said he expects, given Way Station’s expertise, that many of the veterans who are referred to Welcome Home through the VA will have such challenges.
Combat and civilian life can affect a veteran’s psyche, Woods said.
Eligibility for the program is widely varied, she said.
The VA will make the final determination on who is eligible to live at the house, Rose said. Each veteran will be limited to a two-year stay, he said.
No children will live at the home, he said.