Milwaukee VA Medical Center
Work continues to place homeless Vets in Old Main
While the halls of Old Main have rung hollow for more than 30 years, they are now weeks away from filling with life.
The former Milwaukee Soldiers Home and other nearby buildings are being transformed into housing for homeless Veterans, and an effort to find Veterans to live there is underway.
“This is a great opportunity to build a community for Veterans and provide easy access to medical and mental health care,” said Amy Mauel, assistant program manager for homeless prevention programs at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. “It’s very exciting.”
Come March 1, Veterans will move into the buildings, which have been under renovation since the fall of 2019. From then on, Old Main, the Administration Building and nearby houses will be akin to a modern apartment community, with a variety of residences and a myriad of amenities:
- 101 housing units, ranging from single-room occupancies with shared living spaces and kitchens to one- and two-bedroom apartments, three-bedroom duplexes and one four-bedroom house.
- Fitness room, business center and various lounge areas
- A separate wing for female Veterans
- Complimentary internet and basic cable television
- On-site support services, ranging from counseling, sobriety maintenance and mental health care to recreational activities and employment assistance.
Mauel, her staff and VA partners have been working to connect with Veterans eligible to live in the new complex. It is specifically targeted to Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
“All Veterans living in the Soldiers Home have to come through the HUD-VASH program,” Mauel said. “HUD-VASH is the front door for Veterans looking to secure housing.”
HUD-VASH – Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing – is designed specifically to assist Veterans secure permanent housing.
“It’s a clinical treatment program with housing as a benefit,” Mauel said, noting that Veterans in the program receive supportive services from a social worker or registered nurse.
“We’re here to help any Veterans at risk for homelessness, if they want to live in the Soldiers Home or the community,” she said.
Veterans who qualify to live in the Soldiers Home will pay about 30 percent of their income in rent. The rents are set by the Housing Authority and are variable based on the type of unit, Mauel said.
The Soldiers Home is not a domiciliary or transitional housing, Mauel said.
“This is permanent, supportive housing,” she said, noting that a multidisciplinary team of HUD VASH staff members will be available to provide supportive services, based on Veteran need.
To live in the Soldiers Home, Veterans must apply through HUD-VASH. A doctor, nurse or social worker can make the connection, or they can call the National Homeless Hotline at 877-424-3838.
So far, more than 30 Veterans have initiated the application process through the property management company.
“As we get closer (to opening the facility), I think we’ll have even more interest,” Mauel said. “We’re trying to spread the word to Veterans who are interested in taking advantage of this incredible opportunity.”
Dustin Koonce, real estate portfolio manager in the VA Office of Asset Enterprise Management, agreed.
“I feel good about this project,” he said. “Once the doors open you’ll hear a lot more from Veterans. We’re really excited about this program.”
For more information on housing in the Soldiers Home, go to www.milwaukeesoldiershome.com.
Renovation of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home is a project of the Alexander Co. JP Cullen is the general contractor.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Enhanced-Use Lease Program (EUL) is an important component of both VA’s mission to end Veteran homelessness and the department's overall asset management program. The program is managed by the Office of Asset Enterprise Management (OAEM).
Through such public-private-ventures (i.e., EUL Program) the federal government is able to partner with private developers, like Alexander Co., to provide essential housing and expanded services to homeless and at-risk of homeless Veterans that would not be available on a VA medical campus; all of this is done at little to no cost to the government.