The Interfaith Care Community of Medford today will showcase its newest Veterans Transitional Housing Facility, a 13-bed unit that is helping vets overcome homelessness and drug-alcohol problems and get the shelter, clothing and counseling needed to integrate into society.
In a recent survey, 36 percent of Jackson County's homeless were identified as veterans, far higher than the national average of 26 percent, said ICC Executive Director Sharon Schreiber. Jackson County has one of the highest veteran populations per capita in the country, according to the 2006 U.S. Census.
The residential facility, the fourth of its kind in Medford, is funded through ICC by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The $450,000 VA Grant and Per Diem Program provides 40 beds in four residential homes and serves three populations — women and children, chronically mentally ill and Iraq-Afghanistan vets, said ICC official Richard Thomas.
The new facility will be celebrated with an open house at 4 p.m. today at 1325 Beekman Ave., in west Medford, but the tour is already full, Schreiber said. Congressional delegates and local political leaders are expected to attend.
Many veterans come to the Rogue Valley hoping to get help and residency at the VA's Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City, said Thomas, but SORCC recently focused its resources on outpatient treatment.
The transitional housing project started in 2004 to help veterans of all eras but is especially aimed at coping with the "tsunami" of vets from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are expected to need extensive help in the next five years, said Thomas. In addition to the 40 ICC beds, the Salvation Army provides 10 beds that are funded through the same program.
"The program is doing very, very well and if I had 100 homes, I could have them full of people," said Schreiber. She said studies have shown that providing housing helps veterans, but it takes the full range of support services — treatment for substance abuse, mental health counseling and help with finding a job — to be effective in cutting homelessness.
The program is now serving one vet from the Iraq War, but Thomas said he expects many more who will need help because of traumatic brain injuries caused by improvised explosive devices. Such injuries impair memory, cognitive reasoning and impulse control, he said.
Veterans in the ICC program also attend trauma groups at the White City facility to help cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects 15 percent of veterans, said Thomas.
About a dozen veterans are on a waiting list for transitional housing, Thomas said.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at email@example.com.