VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Air Force veteran Karl Colbert has a new home. He’s in one of the 50 units in an apartment with a priority for veterans who are either homeless or at risk of being homeless.
The low-income housing was built on VA land in Vancouver “because we wanted to help address the homeless issue with veterans in the local community,” said the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Paul MacPherson.
Freedom’s Path at Vancouver Apartments has studio and 1-bedroom units for chronically homeless vets — those without a home for the past year or 12 months within the past 3 years — to have a spot to live.
There’s a cyber cafe, a workout room, easy access to medical care on the VA campus, employment services and mental health care on the site.
Of Freedom Path’s 50 units, 40 are project-based vouchers — HUD VASH vouchers — that are set aside for veterans. The other 10 are for people who meet the eligibility but don’t have the voucher.
Colbert has been at the facility for a little more than 2 weeks and he said it’s been amazing.
“Just having a place of my own has been more of a blessing than anything I could have imagined,” Colbert told KOIN 6 News. “Even though my life had been disruptive for a time, having the housing component available to me right now means that I have a base now.”
Being homeless had a dramatic impact on his life — his security, his mental health, eating badly.
“Sometimes,” he said, “just using the bathroom is a difficulty.”
Colbert served in the Air Force in 1970-71 but felt long forgotten.
“Even though I’d formulated in my mind that I had been forgotten, the community has not forgotten us as veterans.”
He recently graduated from the residential treatment program on campus, which is close to the college.
“I’m an educational buff. It also means I’ll establish new friendships as well.”
MacPherson hopes the facility sends a message to area veterans.
“We have a program that’s unique in the federal government for providing supportive housing,” MacPherson said. “We understand homelessness among veterans is unacceptable and that we’re doing everything we can to possibly help. This is just one way of using the real estate we have, our under-utilized real estate to address this particular issue.”
He added there are also some younger vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan who are at the new facility.
“Homelessness is not an age-related issue. It’s for anyone who has a particular problem with homelessness.”
Colbert said when he got out of the Air Force he believed the VA didn’t care, but his views have changed completely.
“I’ve been offered so much and I’ve been given so much that I need to find a way to give back,” he said.