The Veterans Life Center
In 2010, VLC-CARES developed a public/private partnership with supporting agencies and resource providers to employ evidence-based, best practices solution sets in a therapeutic environment for homeless and at-risk veterans and their families. The Veterans Life Center is modeled after top programs nationwide, including Veterans Village of San Diego.
VLC-CARES and The Veterans Life Center enjoy bipartisan support from leaders of the state of North Carolina. In 2011, the NC Council of State approved the lease of eight buildings on the John Umstead Hospital Complex in Butner to VLC-CARES for the purpose of providing emergency and transitional housing for homeless and at-risk veterans and their families. This campus will provide not only temporary supportive housing, but also counseling, mental health and substance abuse services, employment assistance, vocational education, life skills training and treatment for combat related issues.
Phase I of the Veterans Life Center project will be the rehabilitation of Building 71 (Deerfield Cottage), a 56,000 sq. ft. facility, which will provide for up to 150 Veterans.
• Building rehab time – 12 months.
• Projected cost – $4.2 million.
• Full occupancy within 8 months from opening.
• Up to 30 Full Time Positions will be created.
Phase I Building Rehabilitation Funding has been realized through a federal Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant via the NC Department of Commerce to the Town of Butner.
Phase I Operational Funding sources have been identified; they include the VA, US Department of Labor, HHS, HUD, Department of Defense and USDA grants and programming funds. Similar successful models utilize up to several dozen complimentary Federal funding streams as identified in the USIACH “Opening Doors” and VA “Mission VETS” handbooks.
Phases I and II Gap Funding is to be supported via a $10M Capital Campaign.
Phase II of the Veterans Life Center project is planned for Buildings 49-55 of the Umstead complex. These buildings will provide an additional 250 beds, and will also house a full institutional kitchen, administration and classroom spaces.
• Building rehab time – 12months.
• Projected cost – $5.8 million.
• Full occupancy within 12 months from opening.
• An additional 26 Full Time Positions will be created.
Phase III will be the development of an Agri-Business Demonstration Model Farm and Gardens on state lands adjacent to the Umstead complex. This program will not only provide work therapy, but also education in modern farming methods and business experience to our resident Veterans. Thus, it will support the educational and therapeutic needs of the residents, as well as providing food for the Veterans Life Center itself. Planning for this phase is underway with the cooperation of the NC Department of Agriculture and North Carolina State University. It is hoped that development of this aspect of the program will take place concurrently with Phase II.
The Veterans Life Center program will create the only statewide, therapeutic residential setting for veterans in North Carolina. At the center of the Veterans Life Center concept is a community of supporters committed to focusing the resources of many partners to provide more effective care and support for veterans and to track their outcomes. The partners in the project and their relationship to VLCNC-CARES include the following:
- As official recipient of the Phase I CDBG grant, the Town of Butner will play an important role in the development of the Veterans Life Center, which will be closely integrated with local ordinances, institutions and resources.
- VLCNC-CARES has an ongoing Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the adjacent R.J. Blackley Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Center (ADATC) operated by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which provides the basis for program development research and the provision of full 28-day medical detoxification services on-campus. Monthly program development meetings and ongoing professional education are already being held in support of this agreement. Future agreements with other DHHS divisions for the provision of support services are being outlined.
- Mental Health support services will be provided by the Durham VA Medical Center (DURVAMC) in Durham, NC. Access and transport to all services offered at DRUVAMC will be provided.
- The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) has participated in the preliminary building rehabilitation planning and provided VLC-CARES $25,000 through their Pre-Development Loan Program. These funds were used to finance the preliminary engineering studies conducted by Summit Design and Engineering of Hillsborough, NC. Initial costs and building design expenses for the rehabilitation of Building 71 up to Federal Life Safety standards were determined as a result of this study.
- An MOA with the Department of Public Safety is currently in place, and provides for specific programmatic support by the NC National Guard Behavioral Health Unit, Department of Corrections, and Department of Justice as needed to enhance the systems of support for returning Veterans.
- Agreements with University of North Carolina System schools such as UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, NC Central, East Carolina, Fayetteville State and Appalachian State will augment qualified professional services through educational internships and service agreements, as well as ongoing educational and professional support through a variety of programs. Additional educational support will be delivered through local Community Colleges and private educational providers, including Duke University and Medical Center.
- The renowned Research Triangle Park is only a 20-minute drive from the Veterans Life Center. Ongoing research that will have a dramatic impact on the lives of our reintegrating warriors is being conducted in private and public institutions located there, and throughout the region.
- VLC-CARES is currently negotiating an additional MOA to include county behavioral health providers to provide coordinated intake, data recording and follow-up care. This pilot program will cover the central region of North Carolina, for adoption statewide. By integrating case management and programs, a more effective system of Veterans services will be created, and through economies of scale, the costs of these services will be reduced.
- Success of VLC-CARES programs, which will be reviewed by its Medical Advisory Board, will be evaluated through evidence-based matrices. Unified, statewide data collection and interagency collaboration will provide the raw data, and integrated, individualized case management will provide direct tracking of former residents of the Veterans Life Center. An on-going, follow-up support network of partner agencies, such as the Department of Corrections, will provide direct feedback on the success of Veterans Life Center programs.
Research indicates the holistic and veteran-centered approach of VLC-CARES will lead to more positive outcomes for veterans. In a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2000; 157:1563–1570), specialized interventions (such as the array of wrap-around services provided by the Veterans Life Center Campus) for the mentally ill and homeless populations saw “significantly improved outcomes,” including improved mental health and quality of life for the populations studied. The same study also followed outcomes of a sub set of veterans and found that “outcomes were generally superior among veterans in residential treatment groups.”
Of course the most visible and effective means of evaluation will be in the success of former Veterans Life Center residents – in their restored lives and family relationships, in stable, more permanent housing, in meaningful employment and in obtaining higher education.
We cannot do it alone. We need your help!
Please consider making a donation to help a homeless Veteran today, by supporting VLCNC-CARES in its efforts to build and operate the Veterans Life Center.