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Shelter for homeless vets hailed

25-bed Fairfield facility named for Lugar; 2nd in city

A south-side shelter for homeless military veterans will have a full house for its dedication ceremony this morning regardless of how many guests attend.

The Richard Lugar Safe Haven for Veterans has been used “far more than we ever imagined” since opening last winter, according to William Raihl.

“We have 25 capacity, and we have 25 veterans. We are at full capacity,” Raihl said Monday in a telephone interview.

Raihl is president and chief executive officer of the Indiana chapter of Volunteers of America, a nonprofit faith-based organization that says it serves “America's most vulnerable groups,” including seniors, people with disabilities, recovering addicts, at-risk youths, ex-convicts and the homeless.

The Lugar Safe Havenat 2424 Fairfield Ave., south of Creighton Avenue, is the second veterans shelter opened in Fort Wayne by Volunteers of America. The group also operates Liberty Landing, a 40-bed complex on South Calhoun Street.

Raihl said the newer shelter was named for Lugar because the former 36-year U.S. senator from Indiana “has been very much in the forefront of veterans services and veterans issues.”

“He's really been a champion of veterans, not only in front of the scenes but behind the scenes,” Raihl said. “He has worked closely with Volunteers of America as well.”

Lugar, a Navy veteran, will not attend today's dedication ceremony but might visit in September or October, Raihl said.

Mayor Tom Henry and officials of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are scheduled to be at the 10 a.m. dedication, which will include tours. The VA and the Home Depot Foundation provided funding for the Lugar Safe Haven.

Volunteers of America acquired the former offices of United Hispanic Americans Inc. for $350,000, and the Home Depot Foundation provided nearly $87,000 for remodeling. The project meant turning offices into residential rooms with bathrooms.

The goal is to“make their stay with us as comfortable as possible,” Raihl said of the homeless veterans who use the shelter.

In return, each resident “is expected to work with their case manager toward a lifestyle conducive to stable housing,” Volunteers of America said in a statement. Veterans are referred by the VA and may stay in the shelter for up to six months.

More than 80 veterans are homeless on any given night in Fort Wayne, according to Volunteers of America.