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The Journal Gazette

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017 1:00 am

Senseless to deny grant to aid veterans

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

Shepherd's House on Tennessee Avenue started out on a shoestring budget and strict policies in the late 1990s, providing residential treatment to people with addictions.

But about 2006, the center's operator, Barb Cox, realized there was a big hole in the so-called safety net. If you were a veteran and homeless and suffering from an addiction, there was virtually nowhere to turn.

Cox discovered that in the mid-2000s when she realized that a homeless veteran only rumored to exist was found living in some woods along Coliseum Boulevard. Shepherd's house took him in, and before long his life had become stable enough to find his own place.

Unfortunately, the man died of a heart attack not long after that. But Cox, in 2006, became determined to build a small suite to accommodate veterans who needed shelter and therapy.

It didn't go well. For two years she tried to finish the special wing, but money was short.

Finally with a little publicity, money, materials and help arrived, and the transformation of Shepherd's House had begun.

That was about nine years ago. Today, the organization specializes in helping veterans with emotional, mental or substance abuse problems. They arrive, and they stay there until they are clean and ready to re-enter life.

It's hard to say how many troubled veterans have passed through the place in the last nine or so years, but the ones who've stopped there haven't been part of a rush job. They have always been able to stay long enough to turn their lives around.

The place actually works.

That's why it doesn't make a lot of sense to me that the place has been denied a $496,000 grant that covers most of its annual budget.

Nearly half a million dollars does sound like a lot of money, but it pays to house, feed and counsel 30 troubled veterans at a time who need enough time to put their lives back together.

The courts and other organizations have relied on the Shepherd's House for years now for the job it does. There haven't been complaints.

Its effectiveness has not been questioned.

The community has been generous to the faith-based organization, and it probably won't go away. But one question does arise. If the place loses the majority of its funding, where will the veterans go?

Or will they just return, unprepared, to the street in the middle of an opioid epidemic.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.