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Way Station renovating former offices to be transitional housing for veterans

Way Station Welcome Home Veterans project, a 27-bed facility, will open in late spring or early summer

September 05, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • This three-story building at 25 E. North Ave. in Hagerstown is the future site for transitional housing for homeless veterans.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

A not-for-profit mental health organization with offices across Maryland plans to open a $3.3 million transitional housing facility in Hagerstown to help homeless veterans find employment and a permanent place to live.

Mindy Morgan, program manager at Way Station Inc., said the 27-bed facility will open in late spring or early summer at the former Way Station building at 25 E. North Ave.

“This facility is not a shelter,” she said of the Way Station Welcome Home Veterans project. “It’s a transitional living house.”

Morgan said the difference between a shelter and a transitional living house is that shelters typically give people a place to stay overnight. A transitional living house, she said, will provide employment training for residents and help them work toward finding a permanent place to live.

Residents will be allowed to stay at the house for as long as two years.

The East North Avenue location was the Way Station’s Hagerstown office until the organization moved to the former armory at 328 N. Potomac St., Morgan said.

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She said workers are in the process of renovating the inside on the building on East North Avenue from offices to apartments.

“It was kind of like a house with offices; now it will be apartment-style,” she said.

Way Station President Scott Rose said the program won’t accept veterans with a dishonorable discharge.

He said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will verify the military service of each applicant before they are admitted.

Rose said transitional housing slots will be open to Hagerstown and Washington County veterans before those from other parts of the state.

Priority will be given to homeless female veterans, then to male veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said. If there is any room after that, the Way Station will consider veterans who fall in other categories.

“They have to be homeless,” Rose said of the main requirement to receive housing. “They just need some help. It’s hard to find a job if you don’t have a home.”

He said the $3.3 million project is being funded by a $900,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, an $800,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and $1.6 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans Affairs will pay to staff the building with six employees, Rose said, and the U.S. Labor Department will fund the job-training programs.

“Our goal is that they find employment and homes,” he said. “The overall commitment is to serve homeless veterans ... This project is one of those win-wins for everybody.”

In addition to Hagerstown, Way Station Inc. has facilities in Carroll, Frederick and Howard counties.

Homeless veterans

The last homeless census conducted in January 2011 identified 67,495 homeless veterans in the United States on a single night.

That same count identified 696 homeless veterans in Maryland.

There are about 20 million male veterans.

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.



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