By Nanci Hutson
Originally Published: December 26, 2019 11:03 p.m.
The cacophony of construction outside the office windows at U.S. VETS new, $9.5 million headquarters and housing complex on Whipple Street is a symphony to the agency leaders inside.
The sound of bulldozers, backhoes and carpenters pounding hammers on nails, signifies a solid step toward the success of a safe haven for more than 100 homeless and at-risk veterans who once accepted an oath to sacrifice their very lives for this nation.
Officially called Liberty Pointe, the new transitional and supportive housing complex is a vision made possible through a partnership between U.S. VETS Prescott, private investors and the city that granted approvals needed for reconstruction to commence. The 16-year local U.S. VETS agency is part of the largest national nonprofit service organization providing housing and services to vulnerable veterans.
U.S. VETS Executive Director Carole Benedict is beyond thrilled that what started as a dream years ago is about to become reality — a new chapter for the agency and new chapter for the men and women who will be embraced with shelter and services enabling to forge a path forward as community citizens. She referred to Bridgepointe Communities LLC as its “angel developer.”
“It’s still a little surreal,” Benedict said last week as she took a break from phone calls and moving boxes.
“It’s going to be really fantastic to be on-site with all of our clients.”
Moving day for the existing 72 clients in the transitional living program is expected to be Jan. 16. A grand opening ceremony is expected in the spring, Benedict said.
Until now, U.S. VETS has leased office and housing space in two locations on Gurley Street. In addition, the agency rents 28 units of permanent supportive housing from area landlords and property management companies.
Through this project, U.S. VETS 29-member staff of case management counselors, job coaches, homeless outreach workers and other support service providers to be on the same property as most of their clients. At the start, the complex will house a maximum of 107 clients, Benedict said.
Anyone wishing to donate to U.S. VETS’ Liberty Pointe complex on Whipple Street in Prescott can do so by visiting usvetswhipplestreetproject.org
U.S. VETS is also now accepting applications for its studio units. For information, contact U.S. VETS at 928-583-7204.
“It’ll be a healthier and happier community,” Benedict said of the long-vacant, mixed-use commercial and residential property within walking distance of Yavapai Regional Medical Center and other area businesses.
The new complex breakdown is as follows:
24 units for U.S. VETS existing transitional housing – 72 beds at three beds per room with 10 of those dedicated as “hospital-to-home” beds for medically fragile veterans.
• 15 transition-in-place, single-occupancy studios that after a year will convert into a permanent, supportive housing unit.
• 20 studio apartments for veterans eligible for federal subsidies or who are candidates for long-term permanent, supportive housing. Federal rates for studio rentals are $714 a month.
Bridgepointe Communities will also have an additional 26 market-rental apartments that can be converted into federal subsidy housing once U.S. VETS is cleared for those additional vouchers, Benedict explained.
Beyond the dorm-style and studio apartments, the 2.2 acre complex will have a communal dining hall and commercial kitchen that will complement the agency’s culinary employment training program, a laundry and exercise room.
U.S. VETS Operations Coordinator Skye Biasetti said the facility stands as a testament to the power of many to offer meaningful housing opportunities to those who need them the most.
Biasetti said she first walked the property in 2012 and then again in 2014. But the timing wasn’t right.
Two years later, U.S. VETS leaders again eyed the property. This time, though, there was a renewed sense of purpose with private partners willing to cover the bulk of remodeling and construction costs.
“We realized it could happen,” said Biasetti who just was promoted to director of quality assurance for the national organization. Her office will be on the new Prescott campus.
The agency’s aim is to “meet veterans where they’re at, create a plan and execute it,” Biasetti said.
“This will offer a higher level of care, and help (the veterans) feel more supported and valued in setting their own goals.”
On a quick tour, Benedict and Biasetti walked inside one of the finished studios with its one bathroom and simple kitchen area and living/bedroom space.
The agency is now soliciting donations of furnishings and household supplies, with a full “Welcome Home” package priced at $2,500 down to $50 for pots and pans.
“So cute,” Benedict declared of the complex she believes is uniquely positioned to transform lives.
Not only will Liberty Pointe offer safe shelter, Benedict said it will enable veterans to partake in programs and support services that will build self-reliance and enable them to be community contributors. Whether they attain skills so they can get a job or pursue an addiction treatment program, Benedict said the on-campus services will make everything easier and more accessible, she said.
Benedict said she is still in awe of all the community partners who went “above and beyond to make this happen.”
“We are excited for the new opportunities that will be available with U.S. VETS’ move to their new facility,” said Ed Shier, the Prescott VA’s mental health service line manager and manager of the VA’s Healthcare for Homeless Veterans program. “We also look forward to seeing the expansion of other programming that US VETS provides but has been limited due to space. We continue to value our partnership with US VETS.”
“We are very excited for U.S. VETS,” said Mayor Greg Mengarelli. “This project has been a long time coming, but will be a tremendous service to our veterans. We’re grateful for the work of U.S. VETS in our city.”