Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

County farm likely to become facility for homeless veterans

During the second meeting to discuss possible uses for the county farm, agency leaders agreed a facility to assist homeless veterans would have the most potential for success in Washington County.
Mayor Dan Eldridge said several county commissioners had expressed concern about the options being discussed, though none attended the Aug. 22 meeting.
“They think we need to be sensitive from a compatibility standpoint with the surrounding community,” Eldridge said. “I’d like to try to get a direction.”
Representatives who work with homeless veterans said the Mountain Home VA Medical Center in Johnson City has reduced the length of stay to 90 days for homeless veterans.While caseworkers follow the veterans for another 90 days, many wind up back on the street.
“With the opportunity we have, the county farm could be another transitional step,” Eldridge said. “Is that what we’re saying?”
Available, ongoing funding sources need to be considered when developing criteria for any program, he added.
Richard McClain, executive director of the Johnson City Housing Authority, said emergency per diem grants for veterans could provide an immediate source of funding, and an upcoming grant opportunity could lock in the per diem for one year.
“I think there is a good chance we could apply and have long-term funding,” he said.
Eldridge asked the group to consider the options discussed during the last meeting before making a decision.
“Are there any more ideas regarding a specific program that would put that use above veterans?” he asked.
Other possibilities include a facility for homeless youth, prisoner re-entry or a substance abuse treatment center.
McClain said the funding resources may not be as available for the other population groups.
“Homeless families is another need, but this facility would not be a fit,” he said.
JCHA Board Chair Tommy Burleson agreed all the needs are worthwhile, but said the county farm would serve best for helping veterans.
“Let’s focus on that effort, and if it doesn’t work, we can go back,” he said.
According to Eldridge, the county farm is uniquely qualified to meet veterans’ needs.
“Very little would need to be done,” he said. “The facility is ready for use as soon as the program is formed.”
In addition, NET Trans has agreed to add the county farm to its routes to provide transportation.
Use by veterans also may be the least objectionable proposal.
“I don’t want us to get bogged down in issues the community will resist, and have the facility sit empty for another two years,” Eldridge said.
Burleson said the JCHA has the ability and desire to hold the lease, and is willing to commit to one year of funding.
“The JCHA is more than happy to maintain the facility and the grounds, and allow the other organizations to concentrate on programs and getting people in.”
He emphasized again the purpose of the facility would not be to provide permanent housing.
Eldridge agreed the plans for transition back into the community would need to be very deliberate.
Burleson asked McClain to hammer out a memorandum of understanding with the other organizations that would identify specific responsibilities, and ensure compliance with all policies.
The group will meet again Friday, Sept. 7, at 10 a.m. at the JCHA.