On February 11 more than 200 community members and well-wishers attended a groundbreaking ceremony held by Interfaith Community Services for the $2.7 million Veteran and Family Resource Center located at 250 N. Ash St.
“Today is not about a building. Today is about people,” declared Greg Anglea, executive director of Interfaith.
This repurposing of an existing building on Ash will include:
• 20-bed veteran recuperative care program
• 12-bed recuperative care program
• Social Services intake and programs to build self-sufficiency
• Specialized Veterans Assistance of San Diego intake and support programs
Construction is expected to start soon with a hoped-for opening in July.
“We are creating a center for homeless veterans and non-homeless veterans and changing lives,” declared Greg Anglea, executive director of Interfaith.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Horn, a Vietnam veteran, one of the VIPs at the event, observed, “If you have PTSD you can’t wait two years to get help.” Horn noted that one third of San Diego County residents have a connection with veterans in some way.
Supervisor Dave Roberts, who represents Escondido, noted that the center will be one of five planned for the county, and will be the first to accommodate women veterans. He praised Tom & Dorothy Hawthorne, the philanthropists “who got the ball rolling for the center” when it was just an idea.
“It’s our job to educate the public to get you the support to complete this,” said Roberts.
According to Interfaith, more than 1,400 veterans are homeless in San Diego County every day and last year, nearly 3,700 veterans in San Diego experienced at least one night of homelessness.
Anglea said that Interfaith is the largest provider for struggling veterans in North County and provided services for 19,000 veterans last year. “This will be a world-class center to provide recuperative care for men and women.”
Alexis Parker, executive director of HomeAid, a partner with Interfaith in the building of the Veterans center, said this is the third such project that the two organizations have worked together on. HomeAid’s board consists of executives from real estate and the building trades.
The project is costing $60,000 in preconstruction, of which HomeAid donated $10,000 at the groundbreaking. The money to purchase the existing building and land came from Tom & Dorothy Hawthorne, who had been looking for a project that they could get involved with.
“We needed $550,000 to buy the property,” said Anglea, “That’s when Tom and Dorothy got really serious to help veterans. The Hawthornes provided the $550,000.
The project will cost a total of $2.7 million, of which $800,000 has already been raised. “We need help completing this project,” said Anglea.
One of the speakers was Michael Thorton was medically discharged from the U.S. Army due to a foot injury. “If it weren’t for Interfaith and Recuperative Carre I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Before his discharge, Thorton resided with his elderly mother in San Diego County. When she sold her home and moved away, Michael was left without permanent housing. While staying in a downtown San Diego veteran tent shelter, Thorton was referred to Interfaith via the Veterans Hospital. During his 6-month stay at Interfaith’s Veterans Recuperative Care Facility, he said he felt “like family.” “The nurses and staff took care of me during two surgeries,” he said.
He also successfully completed a chef-training program called Warrior Kitchen. Currently, he is employed at the Chula Vista Retirement Center as a cashier. Thorton attributes his current self-sufficiency to Interfaith and the Veterans Recuperative Care Program. “With Interfaith’s help, I didn’t return to homelessness. Through the Veterans Recuperative Care Program, I was able to get the assistance I needed,” he said.
Anglea added, “Think about being a veteran and being homeless and no place to put your head. Then think about being discharged from the military.”
The homeless veteran population includes men and women, many with children and who have served in wars from Vietnam to post 9/11. Last year, Interfaith Community Services’ Veterans Assistance of San Diego division assisted 1,067 veterans with employment, nutrition, housing, counseling, recovery from hospital stays and wraparound family support.
Interfaith helps provide transitional housing, employment assistance, recuperative care, mental health and homeless prevention. If you or someone you know is a veteran in need of assistance, call Interfaith’s Veterans Advocates directly: Escondido Office: (760) 489- 6380. Oceanside Office: (760) 529- 9979