Groundbreaking Veterans Center coming to Kansas City - KCTV5

Groundbreaking Veterans Center coming to Kansas City

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The week of Christmas is a time when volunteers feed the homeless in droves. Many of those receiving the service once provided a service as members of the United States military.

The U.S. Veterans Administration estimates there are 1,800 homeless veterans in Kansas City every night. That accounts for more than a third of the city's homeless population even though veterans represent only a tenth of the population as a whole, according to veterans advocate Art Fillmore.

"Some of these people are serving six, seven, eight tours and it creates a very dysfunctional atmosphere for their personal life when they come home," Fillmore said.

Fillmore is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He was chairman of the foundation that gave Kansas City a Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Now he's on the board of a group working to provide permanent housing to homeless veterans.

"In the past it's always been transitional housing," Fillmore explained. "If somebody goes to a place where he or she can stay forever, with that thought in mind, they'll get a job, they'll feel like it's their place, they feel like they actually have a home."

Construction on the St. Michael's Veterans Center is set to begin early next year, on a 24-acre vacant lot just south of the VA Medical Center. It was once home to a public housing complex, which was demolished long ago and sat as a blighted dumping ground for years.

The plan is to erect three apartment buildings, with 180 units total, plus a service center offering mental health services and job skills training, among other things.

"This is going to be a place where the veterans are going to be a community," Fillmore said. "We've nicknamed the project; we've given it the tag name 'The Homes for the Brave,' and that's what it is. It's people who have done their service for the country. They fulfilled their contract with America and America hasn't done its part for them, so we're going to try to fill that void."

Fillmore said the services are provided in other cities, but the centralized campus concept makes it unusual, possibly even unique.

A city grant and state tax breaks are helping make the $34 million non-profit project possible. A memorial garden, called the "Garden of Honor," will be funded entirely by private donations. The nonprofit, St. Michael's Veterans Center, Inc., will need to re-apply for grants each year, so it is split into three phases. Phase one involves the first 58 apartment units, the service center and the garden. It's slated to begin early next year and be complete at the end of next year.

Click here for more information on the Kansas City VA Medical Center and other services.

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