A controversial plan to house homeless veterans raised some concerns in Desert Hot Springs. Now the housing center has garnered approval from the city and skeptics. It is also welcoming its first residents.
The ribbon was cutting Thursday morning marked the official opening of Shea’s Veterans Center. But the going hasn’t been easy for the center’s founder Judy Shea. That all changed with a snip of the ceremonial ribbon.
A year ago, the center was a mess. Broken Windows, graffiti on the walls and torn up tiles on the floor.
“What Judy is doing is a miracle for me.”
But with a little paint, plaster, spackle and know-how, it’s doors are now open for veterans who have fallen on difficult times. One of those veterans is John Routh who was honorably discharged from the Army. Routh was on the verge of homelessness after being evicted from his home.
“What Judy is doing is a miracle for me. I was literally in the middle of all that just three days ago and then I found out through family resource center about what Judy was doing here, I called her, she invited me over and I was in that day,” said Routh.
Shea has been fighting for a year to get the center open. First, fighting the city over permits. Then residents in the area who did not want the center in their backyard. But Shea persevered and many who were once against her, now join here.
“I feel so grateful that this has come full circle. That the city has acknowledged us and all these politicians. The senator, assemblyman, Manny Perez, etc. It’s not a miracle. It’s perseverance. It’s perseverance and like I said, we always have to be cooperative, not competitive,” said Shea.
Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every single day. And while there are fewer falling victim to homelessness, the need for places like Shea’s Veteran’s Center is significant.
“There’s a lot of homeless veterans and we need to take care of them. They’ve served their country, they need help now and we need to help them,” said veteran Tom Hernandez.
“This is the epicenter, this is the epicenter of helping our community and people like Judy saying enough is enough. We need to do something about our veteran homelessness population,” said veteran Jeff Gonzalez.
Shea and other veteran advocates say the center is only the beginning. One of the big issues facing veterans today is substance abuse. The thinking at Shea’s is first you get vets off the streets, then you get them treatment for substance abuse.
Shea hopes to one day provide that service but it means licensing and hiring a qualified staff. Both of which cost money. So the next step is to raise funds and tackle the next issue to get veterans what they need after they have given so much.