Fifty-four homeless veterans and their families will have a home in time for the holidays this year on what was once a golf course at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus.
Eagle Landing holds 44 apartments and 10 small houses. They will be ready for new occupants by mid-November.
“We think this is a great investment in the health and well-being of our veteran population. We are very excited about this project and how it helps the VA meet an ambitious goal set by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to ensure all veterans have a home by 2015,” said Roseburg VA spokeswoman Carrie Boothe.
The project is based on an idea, called “housing first,” that homeless people are more likely to pull themselves out of poverty, drug addiction and other problems if they are first given a safe, stable place to live.
It is an idea that has been embraced by Veterans Affairs, which donated land and money to the project, as well as NeighborWorks Umpqua, which has overseen the facility’s development. Also on board is United Community Action Network, which will help its residents figure out how to make better lives for themselves.
Eagle Landing has been built on 4.76 acres of what was once the Aspirin Acres golf course. The $12 million project is funded primarily through $7.5 million in low-income housing tax credits from Oregon Housing and Community Services. The VA pitched in $1 million.
The grounds include a community building, laundry room and playground. Most units are 660-square-foot one-bedroom apartments. The largest homes are 1,212 square feet with three bedrooms. Residents will pay 30 percent of their income in rent.
Property Management Director Lynn Dow said NeighborWorks has so far received 30 applications from veterans who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
Dow said she anticipates no difficulty filling all of Eagle Landing’s units with veterans in need of stable housing.
That has been a concern for local veterans like Douglas County Veterans Forum President Jim Little, who believes Eagle Landing should be reserved for veterans rather than opening its doors to other types of homeless people.
“The VA grounds should only be a place for healing and a resting ground for veterans. That’s what the land was set aside for,” Little said.
Little said he believes homeless vets seeking to improve their lives need a more disciplined atmosphere than others might.
“I hope it works and I hope it makes a dent in the homeless population. It’s scary to think about the kids that are coming back and the employment situation they face,” he said.
A one-night count of homeless veterans suggested that on a winter day in 2009, as many as 75,609 veterans were homeless nationwide. Of those 57 percent had shelter—temporary housing or a friend’s couch—while 43 percent were on the streets, according to a report by the federal VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
NeighborWorks Umpqua Housing Director Karan Reed said a 2011 market study commissioned for the Eagle Landing project estimated there are 900 homeless veterans in the area served by the Roseburg VA.
Dow said there is no geographic limitation on veterans who apply for the housing. A few applications have been received from out of state, she said.
The definition of homelessness is broad. A veteran living with a parent would qualify, as would a resident of a place like Orchard Knolls, a transitional housing facility operated by the Douglas County Housing Authority on the VA campus. Orchard Knolls residents are allowed to stay for two years but must then find somewhere else to go.
Eagle Landing will offer its residents more than a roof and four walls.
United Community Action Network was interviewing candidates last week for a case manager who will work with Eagle Landing residents to identify and reach their goals, whether those be getting off drugs or getting education or a job.
Director Mike Fieldman said the ideal candidate for the position would be a veteran.
“There is a camaraderie and a culture that exists within the veteran community that someone who is a veteran themselves will not only be able to relate to better, but also be received better by the other tenants there,” Fieldman said.
Boothe also noted Eagle Landing’s location means veterans can easily access VA services.
“We feel the location is optimal for our veterans,” Boothe said.
Reed said she feels good about helping struggling veterans find a place to live.
“I’m very excited. This is a real heart issue for me. My husband is a vet, my son is in the Navy 17 years, my father is a veteran,” Reed said. “To me, helping to provide homes for our veterans is something that as a nation I feel that we need to do. Those that are homeless we can provide them that decent place to live where they can feel the time they gave to our country is being honored.”
“It’s great resource for people who have served their country well. It’s a way for our community and our society to give them something back for their service,” he said.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.