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VA seeks to expand housing for homeless veterans and their families in St. Cloud

The St. Cloud VA Health Care System has been selected as a site for development of a new building for homeless or at-risk veterans and their families through public-private partnerships and VA's enhanced-use lease (EUL) program.

The project will support VA's goal of ending veteran homelessness by providing safe, affordable, cost effective and sustainable housing for veterans on a priority basis.

The project will result in a new building on the St. Cloud VA campus and additional opportunities for collaboration between the VA and community partners serving homeless or at-risk veterans. The new building is not intended as a short-term shelter but as permanent living units or transitional housing units for veterans with supportive service needs and not yet ready for independent living.

The anticipated location for the new building is on the St. Cloud VA Medical Center Campus in St. Cloud, to the west of the Al Loehr Veterans and Community Studio Apartments.

"We are in the very early stages of the planning process," said St. Cloud VA HCS Director Barry Bahl, "but we envision a new building similar in scale and appearance to the Al Loehr Apartments."

The St. Cloud Housing and Redevelopment Authority, in collaboration with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, developed and built the Al Loehr Veterans and Community Studio Apartments in 2006 on property leased from the VA. Catholic Charities of the St. Cloud Diocese manage the Al Loehr Apartments.

"VA is seeking experienced organizations who have developed and managed housing of all types, but we are seeking those organizations that are particularly experienced in developing and managing housing for homeless veterans and affordable housing to prevent homelessness," said Bahl.

Construction of the new building could begin sometime in 2012, Bahl added.

The St. Cloud building project is part of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initiative to develop housing opportunities for homeless and at-risk veterans by adding 34 VA locations across the country. This strategy will increase the department's available beds by more than 5,000. VA currently has 15,000 transitional beds available to homeless veterans.

"This initiative will significantly support our efforts to eliminate veteran homelessness and improve quality of life for veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "We have a moral obligation to ensure that veterans and their families have access to affordable housing and medical services that will help them get back on their feet."

Culminating two years of work to end homelessness among veterans, a recent strategic study, the Building Utilization Review and Repurposing (BURR) initiative, identified unused and underused buildings and land at existing VA property with the potential to develop new housing opportunities for homeless or at-risk veterans and their families through public-private partnerships and VA's enhanced-use lease program.

VA's enhanced-use lease (EUL) authority allows the VA to lease land and improvements to selected developers for terms of up to 75 years. Under the EUL, the developer/lessee develops, operates, and maintains the land for an agreed-upon purpose that is consistent with VA's mission and operations. In return for the EUL, VA receives negotiated monetary and/or in-kind consideration. This results in reduced operating and maintenance costs to VA and, for the BURR initiative, will yield housing for homeless or at-risk veterans and their families.

"We provide the land while the developer provides the building. In turn, veterans reap the benefits," Bahl explained. "We've used enhanced-uses leases on a number of projects here in St. Cloud," Bahl said. "Joe Faber Field and Veterans Golf Course, and the Al Loehr Apartments are examples of enhanced-use leases benefitting veterans and the community."

This project will involve seeking to establish a partnership with a developer to build a housing facility on the vacant parcel of land on the St. Cloud VA campus. The VA will be soliciting proposals from developers interested in building supportive housing for homeless veterans. The immediate next steps involve publishing a Request for Proposals and conducting a public hearing on the St. Cloud VA campus, Bahl said.

To expedite the project, contractors will be asked to develop multiple sites in a region. The St. Cloud project is grouped within a region with another project at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. "We are excited about this project," Bahl said. "It meets real needs for area veterans and for the communities they live in."

All veterans are encouraged to enroll in the VA health care system. For information on enrolling for VA health care, contact the St. Cloud VA HCS Eligibility Office at (320) 255-6340 or contact your local VSO at (218) 631-7617 or by e-mail at As always, have a great week.