Veterans Housing and Recovery Program Terminated: Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs quietly shutters program
Set to displace 25 veterans of the United States Armed Forces, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) is scheduled Sept 30, 2019 to permanently close down the Veterans Housing and Recovery Program (VHRP) located at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King, WI.
VHRP King is one of four Grant & Per Diem Programs (GPD) within the Madison VA Homeless Programs of the Madison VA Medical Center. The GPD Program works with community-based agencies to provide transitional housing and case management services to Veterans.
According to the resident handbook published by the Veterans Housing and Recovery Program (updated-02/24/17), the center offers a wide range of services to help veterans who are homeless and/or at risk of becoming homeless get back on their feet.
It is believed by the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs that the major problems with homeless military veterans include; low pay and high rent, chemical dependencies, and mental illness.
The handbook states, “The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs cooperate in this effort to bring change into the lives of all needy veterans under the guidelines and policies of Wisconsin Veterans Housing and Recovery Program.”
Also, the main focus of the program is to: “transition homeless veterans into society’s mainstream by assisting them in obtaining meaningful employment; and, subsequently, securing safe, decent, and sanitary housing.” The VHRP is NOT an emergency shelter.
VHRP, according to their handbook, has a program philosophy and mission statement. It reads like this: “The staff strives to create an environment of unity and mutual concern. The staff request adherence to policies, rules, and regulations to aid in producing a safe and comfortable environment for success. The staff will help support and empower every veteran to remain sober and maintain standards of cleanliness, and personal hygiene. By following these simple rules, an environment is established where veterans can heal themselves and help each other heal. The staff realizes that structure is a skill that often needs to be relearned and we are prepared to help veterans. Ultimately, the goal of the staff is to work themselves out of business by ending homelessness among veterans - one veteran at a time.
In the section titled “Program Goals” are written these words: “The goals of VHRP are to provide a clean, decent, and safe environment where veterans can feel at home; meet immediate health and welfare needs of each veteran; to work with each veteran to overcome the obstacles he faces in trying to live a productive life; and to work cooperatively with federal, state, and local service organizations and programs in business and industry to provide services and funding to the center.”
Eligibility for the program is open to any veteran who qualifies for Wisconsin Veterans benefits or Wisconsin Veterans Home admissions.
All four agencies (the VHRP programs at Chippewa Falls, Green Bay, King, and Union Grove) are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the State of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Division of Housing.
A therapeutic community model that defines the provisions of residential rehabilitation and clinical services is used by the VHRP program. This is done to promote both personal growth and accountability. Clinical therapy is designed to get the veteran back into the mainstream society and does so by working the system of communal living within the respective agencies. This is done through a mutual self-help program module wherein participants demonstrate adherence to program rules, existing schedules, and behavioral expectations. The agency is not a flop house. Participants are expected to be responsible towards themselves and each other; must try to influence the next person in a positive manner; provide honest feedback; and not be afraid to demonstrate some genuine empathy while in group sessions.
It was during one such group session on Friday, June 24 that the residential community learned of the fate of the VHRP King agency. Earlier in the morning, the staff had been summoned to a conference call from higher up on the chain of command. That conference call dropped the bombshell news; that on Monday, July 17, word came from the top, that VHRP King was going to be terminated at the end of this coming September.
It was the regularly scheduled Morning Gathering meeting; only this was no regular meeting. The entire VHRP King agency staff was present. Each staff member took turns to speak about what they had just learned. Point blank: Mary M. Kolar, Secretary-designee of Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs terminated the VHRP King program. The program’s contract was up for review, however, Secretary Kolar decided to not renew the contract. No statement was given from her office. No press release was or will be issued. In what appears to be a “sweep and clean” maneuver, the program and its participants are being swept under the rug.
The VHRP program has been plagued with a very particular problem from day one; that being there had never been a permanent residence for the program here at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King, WI. Over the years the program had been housed in the original hospital building of the Wisconsin Veterans Home complex. The building had been “abandoned” due to asbestos problems.
Back in 2012 plans were made to tear the building down and build a new 192 bed facility. Construction was slated to begin in the spring of 2017. An article written by Katelyn Ferral published on Madison.com website May 15, 2019, details the construction project.
The construction now underway, the VHRP program was relocated to the MacArthur Hall. The VHRP staff believed that the relocation to MacArthur Hall was permanent. However, it was learned that the relocation was only temporary. With nowhere else to go, the program has been terminated.
The 25 veterans residing at the agency are going to have to pack up and move out. The staff at VHRP will do what they can to help the veterans find new housing and possible placements in the remaining three agencies statewide.
Since there is no press release or any form of announcement in mainstream news media, Wisconsin’s residence are unaware of the plight that besieges the veterans here at the VHRP King.
The veterans are therefore asking your assistance in demanding that something be done on their behalf.
The following is a contact list of persons you can cause your voice to be heard.
Waupaca State Senate District 14
Senator Luther Olsen ®
Waupaca State Representative
Representative Kevin Petersen
2019 WI Senate Committee onn Transportation, Veterans & Military Affairs
Chair: Sen. Jerry Petrowski
Room 123 South
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
Clerk: Derek Punches
Vice Chair: Sen. Howard Marklein
Room 8 South
Madison, WI 53707
WDVA Executive Committee
Secretary: Mary M.Kolar
Deputy Secretary: James Bond
Assistant Deputy Secretary: Kathy Still
In a press release dated January 11, 2019, Secretary Kolar also introduces “Carla Vigue, 44, will serve as Communications Director. Vigue has been the WDVA’s Communications Director since 2011. Prior to joining the Department of Veterans Affairs, Vigue was Communications Director for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, as well as Communications Director and spokeswoman for Governor Jim Doyle. Prior to her work in Wisconsin, she worked in Washington D.C. in the areas of federal relations and public relations.”
WDVA Office of Public Affairs
Carla Vigue, Director
2135 Rimrock Road
P.O. Box 7843
Madison, WI 53707