MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The number of female homeless Veterans is on the rise.
A home was dedicated Thursday in Maplewood to honor their service by helping some women Veterans in their time of need.
A five-bedroom, four-bath home is the result of a partnership between the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, Lennar homes and Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans.
MAC-V will take five homeless female Veterans and place them in this structured independent living home. There will also be services to help these Veterans get the resources they need.
“We’re going to come around them with wraparound services, case manage all the way through and we stay with them for two years and beyond to make sure that they’re getting stabilized.”
There are 30,000 female Veterans in Minnesota. Twenty women are currently on the registry for housing.
PEORIA — Goodwill volunteers spent Saturday handing out food, clothes and supplies in preparation for winter at the 10th annual Stand Down for Homeless Veterans at Dozer Park.
“Veterans are special to us because of what they have done for us and our country, so we owe a debt of gratitude back to them,” said Don Johnson, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois.
Roughly 187 Veterans came from across the area, bused in from Springfield, Bloomington, Danville and other cities, to utilize the services provided by Goodwill.
“This is one event you want the numbers to go down,” said Johanna Wagner, senior program manager for Veterans and employment services. This year, fewer Veterans were served, but ultimately, the goal is for no one to need the resources brought to the Stand Down.
About 250 volunteers helped to provide hot meals, hot showers and haircuts in addition to the clothes and supplies the Veterans may need going into winter.
Some of the goods were donated for the Veterans’ Service program, but Goodwill also purchased brand new coats, hats, gloves, sleeping bags, sweatshirts, boots and personal hygiene products.
“It starts off with retail and that donation is the basis of how we fund it, but we actually go out and specifically ask dollars from the community to help us,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a lot of support. This year for this event we raised well over $100,000.”
Medical and dental services also partner with Goodwill and checked Veterans for health concerns at the Stand Down.
“When people donate and they buy from our stores, 99 cents of every dollar comes back into our programs so that we can offer these things for free,” Wagner said.
Depending on their needs, the Veterans walked away with $200 to $400 worth of supplies, Johnson said.
“Some of the Veterans that come through here, they don’t always have a need for everything that we’re giving today, but they have a need to interact with others that maybe have been through the same thing as they have been through,” Wagner said.
That camaraderie continues to bring the Veterans together and helps them to support each other, Johnson said.
Leon Ruffus, an Army Veteran who served in active duty in the 1980s, said he was skeptical of the program at first.
“They said, ‘We can help you,’ and I said ‘Oh yeah? Prove it.’”
They proved it five years ago by helping him renew his Permanent Employee Registration Card, which is required to work as a security guard in Illinois. So he stuck around.
“I always said when you down and somebody helps you, then you help the next person,” Ruffus said.
Now he helps to advocate for the program, telling other Veterans how it can help them.
“A lot of these Veterans, and that’s including myself, are very proud. We have a hard time accepting handouts,” he said. “But they’re not handing you nothing — you gotta work for it.”
Wagner says the Stand Down is like Christmas for her, but she works to help Veterans year round, offering computer access, assistance with job certifications, mock interviews and workshops.
“If a Veteran came in to me a month from now and said ‘I need a winter coat, hat and gloves,’ they’d get it. ‘I got a job, I need steel-toe boots,’ we get it. We take care of them because that’s what Goodwill does,” she said.
Once their clients have jobs, employment services at Goodwill Commons, 2319 E. War Memorial Drive, make sure they can overcome all the other barriers, like uniforms, licenses, equipment or even knives for a budding chef.
“There’s jobs out there, but we need to understand that there’s more than just showing up on Monday morning at 8 o’clock. There’s other things that are factored in,” Wagner said.
The Los Angeles City Council approved funding to build a homeless shelter for homeless Veterans.
LOS ANGELES, CA — A proposal to fund the city's portion of a temporary homeless shelter to be located on the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration campus was approved by the Los Angeles City Council Friday.
Under a partnership, the city and county of Los Angeles will split the cost of the construction of the $5 million facility, and the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide on-site services.
The City Council unanimously approved a motion seeking funding for the facility, which is to be located on the grounds of the VA campus.
It will provide transitional housing beds for up to 100 homeless Veterans, along with laundry facilities, personal hygiene centers, 24-hour security and supportive services.
"This is a really big deal for Veterans that the VA is finally starting to deliver, and I'm really glad that the city of Los Angeles and the county are helping them deliver," Councilman Mike Bonin said earlier this week at a Homelessness and Poverty Committee meeting before it moved the motion forward.
The facility is scheduled to open in early 2019, and will be one of several new programs and facilities at the site aimed at helping homeless Vets.
The VA also is working on its Draft Master Plan, which calls for 1,200 units of permanent supportive housing on the Westside campus.
The VA additionally has opened a "safe parking" program for Veterans living in their vehicles, and started providing permanent supportive housing for homeless Veterans in existing buildings, with 54 Veterans currently housed in Building 209.
With financial support from the city through HHH bond funds, two other buildings are being converted into permanent supportive housing for Veterans.
The facility will be part of Mayor Eric Garcetti's "A Bridge Home" program, which calls for temporary homeless facilities in each of the city's 15 council districts. One temporary facility in Councilman Jose Huizar's district near the El Pueblo Historic Monument has already opened, with other sites at various stages of development.
The VA bridge housing site will include two tension membrane structures along with modular trailers that will not be visible from the exterior of the VA campus, according to Bonin's motion.
About 100 homeless Veterans in San Diego County will receive vouchers for subsidized housing through $1.1 million in funds released this week from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The money will fund 50 housing vouchers administered by the city of San Diego Housing Commission and 50 vouchers administered by the San Diego County Housing Authority.
The new vouchers are in addition to 1,031 vouchers already in use to subsidize housing for San Diego Veterans countywide.
“We have few responsibilities greater than making sure those who have sacrificed so much in service to their country have a home they can call their own,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement Thursday.
“The housing vouchers awarded today ensure homeless Veterans nationwide have access to affordable housing and the critical support services from the VA,” Carson said.
Nationwide, $35.3 million has been released to fund 4,077 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers. Of that, $18.3 million is going to California for 1,658 vouchers.
The rental assistance announced Thursday is provided through the HUD-VASH Program, which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by the VA.
“When our neighbors answer our country’s call to service, we must answer their call when they return home,” HUD Deputy Regional Administrator Wayne Sauseda said in the news release. “Together with the VA, HUD remains committed to meeting the supportive housing needs of Veterans, so that, one day, we end Veteran homelessness in San Diego.”
Since 2008, more than 93,000 vouchers have been awarded and about 150,000 homeless Veterans have been served through the HUD-VASH program nationwide.
More than 600 public housing agencies administer the HUD-VASH program, and this most recent award includes 22 new agencies, increasing coverage to many communities.
The program also helps VA Medical Centers assess Veterans experiencing homelessness before referring them to local housing agencies for vouchers.
Decisions are based on how long a person has been homeless and the need for longer-term care, among other factors.
Veterans participating in the HUD-VASH program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. VA offers eligible homeless Veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
HUD, VA team up to places homeless Vets in permanent housing
Funding from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and the Veterans Affairs departments will help provide permanent homes to about 100 homeless Veterans in Colorado.
The $782,869 in rental assistance announced this week comes from the HUD-Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program, which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services by the VA.
“We are lucky to have such strong partnerships with the VA and housing authorities throughout the state and the Rocky Mountain region, all of whom work together to build on the success of the HUD-VASH Program,” HUD Rocky Mountain Deputy Regional Administrator Eric Cobb said in a statement.
As part of the program, VA medical centers assess Veterans experiencing homelessness before referring them to local housing agencies for vouchers. The decisions are based on a variety of factors, including the duration of homelessness and the need for longer term, more intensive support.
Veterans participating in the HUD-VA housing program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. The VA offers eligible homeless Veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials singled out the San Diego Housing Commission for its efforts to help house homeless military Veterans, city officials announced Monday.
The commission received an Award of Excellence from the NAHRO -- which named 22 award recipients nationwide -- for the Housing Our Heroes program, which has helped more than 1,000 homeless Veterans find rental housing in San Diego. The city launched the program in March 2016 after the San Diego City Council unanimously approved funding for it.
"The success of our innovative `Housing Our Heroes' program in getting over 1,000 Veterans off the street and into permanent homes is a testament to the creativity of city leaders, the San Diego Housing Commission and, most importantly, the landlords who stepped up to be part of the solution," said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
In order to house the city's homeless Veterans, the program gave incentives to property owners in certain ZIP codes in San Diego and National City who offered rental properties to homeless Veterans. The city also awarded vouchers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and made assistance payments for upfront move-in costs to homeless residents who were placed in housing via the program.
The city received support from myriad organizations to fund and administer program services, including the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the California Apartment Association and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"The Housing Our Heroes initiative proved what we can accomplish when government agencies, landlords and service providers work together. I thank the mayor and the City Council for their leadership and support of this effort, as well as our partners and the staff at the San Diego Housing Commission. This national recognition is well-deserved," said Housing Commission board Chairman Frank Urtasun.
The NAHRO will present the Award of Excellence to the Housing Commission at the organization's annual conference on Oct. 26.
The cabins will house up to 21 Veterans and were built on land leased from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
TOGUS — Tim Buckmore is delighted by his new digs, even if the cable TV hasn’t arrived yet.
Until this summer, Buckmore, 57, was one of dozens of homeless Veterans living in Maine. Now, he’s among 19 Veterans who have moved into small houses on a quiet corner of the VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus campus.
For at least seven years, various organizations and agencies have been developing the so-called “Cabin in the Woods” housing project, which cost $5.1 million to build and is located on 11 acres of land that have been leased from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
On Friday, they celebrated the project’s opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that was attended by more than 100 guests and dignitaries. The project is part of a larger effort to end Veteran homeless and was developed by Volunteers of America Northern New England, a Brunswick-based group.
Of the roughly 2,280 people who were homeless in Maine last year, 131 were Veterans, according to U.S. Census data compiled by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Multiple Veterans who have received new housing through Cabin in the Woods said Friday they appreciated the natural surroundings and lack of noise pollution on the 11-acre property, where 21 cabins have been built. Each of the properties are free-standing and contain one or two bedrooms. The site also includes an office and community space, and is within walking distance of the medical facilities on the 500-acre hospital campus.
Buckmore, who worked as a generator mechanic in the U.S. Army from 1983 to 1989, has been intermittently homeless for the last three years. He first learned about Cabin in the Woods from a social worker at the Bread of Life Ministries’ Veterans shelter in Augusta. Now, he particularly appreciates the quiet natural setting and the radiant heating that comes out of the floor of his one-bedroom cabin.
“This is really nice and quiet,” said Buckmore, a Gardiner native, during a tour of the pre-furnished home. “I’d like to see more of these go up.”
This past summer, Buckmore suffered two strokes and now uses a cane and wheel chair to move around. As someone who has worked in the mental health field and been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, he also hopes the new housing will bring stability to a vulnerable population of Veterans.
“There’s a high suicide rate among homeless Veterans,” he said. “Something like this can help take their mind off anything bad they’re thinking about.”
Buckmore’s one qualm, he said, is that Spectrum has yet to run cable television to the new homes. But he added, “That could be a blessing in disguise.”
Multiple groups provided funding and donations for the Cabin in the Woods project, including the Maine State Housing Authority, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Home Depot and T.D. Bank Charitable foundations. At the ceremony on Friday morning, officials from some of those groups delivered prepared remarks.
There were also speeches by two members of Maine’s congressional delegation, U.S. representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin, and delegates for U.S. senators Susan Collins and Angus King. Also attending the event was Poliquin’s predecessor as representative of Maine’s 2nd District, Mike Michaud, who served as chairman and ranking member of the House’s Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Another speaker was Ryan Lilly, the former director of the Togus system who was recently elevated to another role in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: director of its New England systems.
Just as some cities have eradicated poverties in their homeless populations, Maine is trying to do the same, Lilly said. After the ceremony, he said the Togus campus still has between 30 and 50 acres that could be developed and that the agency is now considering whether it could lease out land for a similar project oriented toward seniors.
“It was our first experience with this process,” Lilly said. “We’re thinking about what we can do next.”
While there are other housing developments for Veterans around the country, Lilly said that Cabin in the Woods is unique because it’s in a secluded area and its units are individual homes, as opposed to apartments.
Another Veteran to benefit from the new housing project is Jesse McGahuey, 41, who last month moved into a two-bedroom cabin with his wife Sheena, 33, and their 5-year-old son, Jerrick. While living on federal land isn’t a perfect arrangement, they said that the arrangement has made it considerably easier for McGahuey to attend his weekly medical appointments at Togus.
McGahuey suffered a series of injuries during and outside his service in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2002. As a child, he suffered a brain injury. Then, when he was working as a heavy equipment operator while stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington, he was pulled under a piece of machinery, injuring his legs and back. Finally, in 2014, he was working at an oil-change business in Waterville when a driver accidentally lost control of her car, giving McGahuey a head injury and exacerbating the previous problems.
After that 2014 accident, McGahuey lost the ability to work or pay for housing. Since then, his family has spent long periods camping outside. They were one of the first families to apply for housing in Cabin in the Woods, and they’re now able stay there with subsidized rental costs.
Now that some stability has been reintroduced to their lives, McGahuey hopes that he can start taking classes at a community college and working again, even if it’s part time. His wife, Sheena, is unable to work and receives disability payments because of medical problems she suffered when giving birth.
“This does ease the pressure of it,” Sheena McGahuey said. “It does help.”
An annual event sponsored by the Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center is working to connect Mississippi's homeless Veterans with services they desperately need. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
Forty-year old Roselyn Hutton, is a U.S. Navy Veteran from Utica. When she was going through a divorce and attending college, Hutton says her G.I. Bill benefits didn't cover the cost of living during breaks, holidays and summers. She and her 9-year old son ended up going from house to house staying with people. Hutton sought help from the homeless program at the Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson.
"And I was able to utilize their services in order to be able to sustain life and still be able to go to school and still drill a little while and still take care of my son," said Hutton.
Hutton, says she now works as a medical supply technician at the VA facility and she's a homeowner. Hutton is at the medical center's annual Standdown event in Jackson encouraging homeless Veterans to take advantage of all the services available. Kimberly Moore is with the medical center. She says state and community agencies link Veterans with services that include finding a job, housing and medical care. Moore wants to make it convenient for them.
"To prevent Veterans from having to go here for one thing, another place for another, bringing all the services under one roof. This is where Veterans can come, they can fellowship with their fellow Veterans, relax, and just get back on their feet with this resources," said Moore.
Moore says 150 to 200 homeless Veterans attend the program. Navy Vet Roselyn Hutton tells them:
"We deserve it. We served this country. It's important to know what benefits and what things are available to us," said Hutton.
A Standdown event is scheduled for September 29, in Greenville.
Today, the 83-year-old lives in a dormitory setting at a former nursing home between Janesville and Beloit in the Housing 4 Our Vets program.
Kimball would not discuss how he became homeless about five years ago. He’s in the facility now for the second time but feels comfortable about his plans to move to Wausau and take care of himself.
He wasn’t homeless in the way people often think of homeless men: destitute and sleeping under bridges.
In fact, it’s rare for that kind of homeless Veteran to stay at the facility, part of the former Caravilla Nursing Home, officials said.
Why can’t we end homelessness, at least for our military Veterans? A look at Housing 4 Our Vets offers some clues.
For starters, the 48-bed facility always has about 12 openings, officials said.
A woman showed up at the facility last week, crying. Her Marine-Veteran son needed help.
Rock Valley Director Angel Eggers said she doesn’t know how the woman knew about the facility, but she’s glad there’s room for him.
More often, Eggers runs into people who didn’t know the Housing 4 Our Vets program exists.
“It has been a struggle getting the word out,” Eggers said, speculating that more homeless Vets might apply if they knew about it.
Some Veterans don’t think of themselves as Veterans, Eggers said. Some don’t know they qualify for a wide range of VA benefits.
“We’ve had guys who could’ve had benefits for years but never knew,” she said.
Eggers gave the mother of the Marine Veteran an application form and put her in touch with people who would help her son fill it out.
The Veterans Administration must approve the application, usually in five to seven days. Eggers said this case sounded promising.
The Janesville Gazette reports that Housing 4 Our Veterans takes in male Veterans for a maximum of two years from parts of four states.
The program at the former Caravilla Nursing Home is a contractor for the VA, which runs the federal government’s effort to end Veteran homelessness.
The local program forbids the use of drugs or alcohol, one of the reasons some homeless won’t go there, said Julie Lenzendorf, program administrator.
“I’ve heard, ‘I’m a grown man. I don’t want to quit drinking,’” Lenzendorf said.
Staff members understand that recovering from addiction means relapses, but men can be ejected from the program if they don’t take advantage of the treatment provided and continue to return to the facility drunk or drugged.
Others don’t want to live with a roommate, another program requirement.
For those who go through the program, the success rate exceeds the VA’s goal of 65 percent, Eggers said.
The VA defines success as a discharge into independent, permanent housing, but some Veterans stay for a time with family before getting their own apartments, or they go to a long-term care facility, so those are not registered as successes, Eggers said.
Very few exit the facility and become homeless again, Lenzendorf said.
“We do everything we can (to prevent that),” Eggers added.
Services the local program provides are critical to success, said Eggers.
A key service is drug/alcohol counseling. The program has a high population of recovering substance abusers.
Residents can also get help for mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress and housing/employment counseling.
“The guys we see have pretty complex needs. That’s why I’m thrilled with the VA, that they give these guys two years (to work on their problems),” Eggers said.
George Kearn was the first Veteran to use the facility when it opened in 2011.
Kearn now is assistant manager at Full Circle Furnishings, an offshoot of the homeless-Vets program. All profits support the program. It’s a job he loves.
Kearn’s own homelessness was brief. He was getting a divorce and needed a place to stay in 2011. The VA pointed him to the new program. He did so well he was hired to help run the place and stayed for nearly two years.
The Navy Veteran, 73, served in Vietnam as a radio operator on a high-speed amphibious transport that dropped off underwater demolition specialists on Vietnamese shores.
Kearn thinks the homeless program is needed, especially to help Veterans transition to civilian life.
But he believes some Veterans use the system for housing when they could provide for themselves.
Housing 4 Our Vets is in two wings of the former nursing home complex.
The Veterans and former prisoners have different meal times and gym times, but they can encounter each other in the halls or grounds. One thing the program is not is an emergency shelter. Veterans must apply and be accepted under guidelines dictated by the Veterans Administration.
The Veterans program employs a manager, two case workers, one intake workers/substance abuse counselor, a full-time staff assistant and several part-time assistants.
It will cost an estimated $726,355 to run this year, most of that coming from the Veterans Administration, Eggers said.
A VA social worker spends at least one day a week at Rock Valley.
Residents who have income, such as from jobs or pensions, must pay 30 percent of their income in rent, not to exceed $224 a month.
To gain entry, residents must be adult males with a non-dishonorable discharge from the military. They must be able to take care of their daily-living needs; the facility does not provide nursing-home-style assistance.
They must prove they are sober, and drug tests and breathalyzer tests are administered randomly.
The Veterans section includes a common room, where residents can watch TV, play cards or host visitors.
Visitors are not allowed in the rooms, which are small but include full baths and kitchenettes.
The program features a mandatory life-skills course.
Kimball and another current resident, Michael Cerda, said they don’t like the requirement that they take life skills training because they know how to brush their teeth, take a shower and otherwise care for themselves.
Cerda, 32, a former gunner’s mate in the Navy, arrived at Rock Valley last year. He became homeless when he was living with family, and problems developed.
Cerda works a second-shift manufacturing job in Delavan and owns his own car.
Cerda doesn’t like the curfew of 10 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, but he’s willing to suffer the annoyances.
He plans to use his full two years so he can be sure he has enough money saved to rent an apartment and be successful, he said.
Cerda likes the food and can order a sack lunch to take to work. Residents are taken on field trips, such as Milwaukee Brewers games and bowling, and cookouts are held on the grounds.
Local groups provide cookies and other snacks, especially during the holidays, he said.
Cerda had a roommate who was an alcoholic and was found outside almost frozen to death, he said.
Residents are encouraged to have hobbies. Cerda paints and modifies miniature soldiers and plays war games with them.
Rock Valley is expanding its programming for Veterans. It’s renovating a vacant wing of the old nursing home for a 23-bed transitional living facility scheduled to open in May.
Graduates of Housing 4 Our Veterans who can’t find housing after two years will be able to apply to move to the new wing, where they’ll have a room of their own at low rents for up to three years.
Work on the gutted wing has been slow in part because officials want to pay for it without a loan. That will mean more fundraising, Eggers said.
President Barack Obama’s administration set out to fix the problem of Veterans homelessness in 2010 by revamping the VA’s programming, and it yielded some results, according to the VA website.
The VA says homelessness between 2010 and 2013, as measured by the number of homeless Veterans on a single night in January, dropped from 76,329 to 57,849.
The revamped program included collaborating with community-based treatment and supportive services, such as the one at Rock Valley. It also started a new program that took a radically different approach.
The new program is called Housing First. It gives Veterans vouchers to pay for apartments without requiring that they stay off alcohol or drugs or complete treatment before getting housing.
Housing First recipients do get help for mental health, substance abuse and other needs, but that comes after they have a roof over their heads.
Eggers doesn’t see how that will work, and she wouldn’t want to use it at Rock Valley, but it’s still a part of the VA’s approach.
The jury appears to be out on Housing First, which also is being used for non-Veterans in programs around the country.
‘Everybody gets along’
Kimball likes his room and the food. He said he gets plenty of exercise in the gym, and he has made friends.
Residents must clean windows and floors and do other chores, and they must keep their own rooms tidy.
“We’ve all been through it at one time, when we were in the service, so it’s nothing new to us,” he said.
Smoking is allowed in designated areas.
“They’re very strict about that,” Kimball said.
Women are not allowed in the rooms, and there’s no fighting, although “everybody gets along pretty well. A few problems here and there, but that comes with the territory.”
Kimball said residents don’t ask each other how they got there, but he knows of many who come from the street.
Residents are allowed to sign themselves out of the facility overnight, “as long as you’ve been behaving yourself,” Kimball said.
Sheriff’s deputies are called for fighting or drunken driving, Kimball said, but he’s seen that happen only three times, and he feels safe.
“It’s a well-run, peaceful place,” he said. “It’s really a haven for us.”
Tending to a garden is part of the recovery process for a group of homeless Veterans at the Jefferson Barracks VA health care campus.
About 100 Veterans each year will plant and harvest vegetables while learning about healthy eating through the Boots in the Dirt program.
The garden is about “celebrating what we have accomplished and remembering what we have yet to do in our life,” said Erin McInerney-Ernst, program manager for the Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans in the St. Louis VA Health Care System. “It’s supposed to evolve and grow like our folks in recovery.”
The Domiciliary Care program is a six-month residential treatment program for Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction or other setbacks that have left them homeless. The first half of the program focuses on recovery, and the second half allows the Veteran to prepare a resume, search for a job and find permanent housing.
There are five raised beds in the garden that have already produced peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and okra. St. Louis Composting donated a soil mixture and Home Depot provided lumber for the beds.
Future plans include a butterfly garden and a canopy for climbing vegetables. Extra produce will be donated to the food pantry at Jefferson Barracks.
A co-founder of the Boots in the Dirt program said she wanted to share the benefits of gardening with fellow Veterans.
“Without gardening I don’t know that I would have done as well,” said Linda White at a ceremony Wednesday in the garden. “Gardening is very therapeutic. It’s good for exercise. It helps combat loneliness.”
Replacing a grassy lawn, the garden has become a gathering spot and brings “purpose and meaning and beauty out of something that feels barren and purposeless at the beginning,” McInerney-Ernst said. “It’s Veterans giving back to Veterans. In the recovery model, when you reach recovery, then it is expected that you give to the person who is not quite there yet.”