A row of old officers' quarters on the Fort Harrison VA hospital grounds is being turned into a Freedom's Path community, which provides housing and support for homeless and low-income veterans.

Karen Weeks, Director of Asset Management for Communities for Veterans, the Florida developer in charge of the project, said it would create 42 new apartments for veterans. Weeks is working with Melenie Carlin of 406 Properties, a Helena property management company that will be caring for the housing in the future.

Weeks said the housing will be aimed at providing homes for veterans who can use the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program. Veterans will be provided a voucher to pay rent and a case manager to help them through the mental and physical issues many veterans face.

"Communities for Veterans has communities in Texas, Georgia and Washington," Weeks said. "This is the first one in Montana."

Carlin said 406 Properties Inc. was chosen because they had prior experience working with veterans who used HUD-VASH vouchers to pay for their living quarters. "It's unique for Montana," Carlin said.

Veterans will be able to move into the new housing in the next few weeks, VA Congressional Liaison Christine Lundstrom said.

"We're going to start processing like now," Weeks said.

Montana has 450 vouchers for the HUD-VASH program. Weeks and Carlin said recruitment for veterans who might not live in Helena and veterans in rural areas were part of their plan to fill the housing at Fort Harrison.

Lundstrom said programs like the Freedom's Path at Fort Harrison are also coming online at other VAs across the country. 

Making the Fort Harrison VA Freedom's Path the best place to live for homeless and low-income veterans and their families is work that's still being done. 

"We've been in talks with transportation companies and food deliveries," Weeks said. The goal is to make moving into the apartments as painless as possible, and to make sure veterans are able to live on their own as best they can. 

"The best thing for the vet community is that they will learn from each other," Carlin said.

She hopes one veteran will bring another, and another, and then all the housing will be filled. 

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Crime and Health Reporter

Crime and health reporter for the Helena Independent Record.

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