January 30, 2019The Southern Indiana Veterans Living and Rehabilitation Facility board of directors met Jan. 16 to discuss its options moving forward.
Board officers attended the Crawford County Community School Corp. Board of Trustees' meeting the night before to learn the status of the vacant, former English Elementary School building.
The school corporation must list the building through the Indiana Dept. of Education for two years before it can be sold to the public or another entity. However, the veterans' group president, Desley Snyder, said there is a waiver process that could reduce the timespan to 30 days.
"The school is still our primary focus," Snyder said, acknowledging they're at the mercy of the school board regarding the building.
If the school plan falls through, Snyder said they will return to their initial idea of a tiny house community.
"Our mindset is, regardless, we're going to do something," she said. "Just so everybody knows, this is a project that will happen."
Project supporter Dan Crecelius, a Crawford County commissioner, said he thinks, for the most part, the community supports the endeavor.
The project's aim is to provide temporary and permanent living facilities for at-risk veterans and their dependents and assist in rehabilitation and job placement in pursuit of self-sufficiency.
District 74 State Rep. Steve Bartels, R-Eckerty, said (via speaker phone) he'd do all he could to support the plan at the state level, but he thought it best if he not serve on the board because of his time commitment as a representative (he was previously named secretary of the veterans board). He also had some advice concerning the next step forward.
"The tiny home concept would push through quicker," he said, mentioning what he's heard at the state and federal levels.
Bartels said the dorm-style housing may not be attractive and the cost of refurbishing the old school building could prove to be cost prohibitive.
Snyder said regardless of where the facility will ultimately be located (could be in Crawford or Harrison counties), it will not just be a shelter for homeless veterans from all walks of life.
"This is going to be a living and rehabilitation facility," she said. "Every veteran will be vetted, and strict policy will be in place to make sure we are not bringing in a person or persons that will damage the reputation of what we're trying to do here."
She said the facility will be for veterans down on their luck, living in dilapidated housing.
"These are the type of people we want to serve," she said. "Not the ones who are out on the streets on their own accord ... We don't need negative energy or attitudes in this facility."
Jim Fraze, Crawford County's veterans service officer and vice president of the board, said they'll offer a hand up, not a hand out. He said they'll partner with the state on a number of programs.
"Indiana has a ton of programs for veterans," he said. "This state is very veteran-friendly."
The veterans just have to be in touch with someone to give them the right direction.
Residents at the facility will contribute financially as long as they are able and will help with grounds-keeping, cleaning and maintenance.
The board will meet again today (Wednesday) at 1 p.m. at the Government Center in south Corydon. The secretary and treasurer positions will need to be filled. Harrison County Commissioner Charlie Crawford said he'll help when possible but does not have the time to commit to the treasurer position.
Snyder said they will continue to look at all options, including purchasing land in Crawford or Harrison counties.
"It doesn't have to be in Crawford," Fraze said. "That's just where we started, thought it might be cheaper."
Crawford said it's "not the end of the world" if the English site doesn't work out.
He advised the board to look at sheriff's sale properties from the auditor's office in Harrison County for possible locations.
The group said, ideally, they'd like to have five to 10 acres.
The facility will aim to help veterans in need in the counties of Harrison, Crawford, Washington, Orange, Perry and Dubois.
"If there's folks in other counties in need, we'll serve them," Snyder said.