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Revitalization? Maybe. As buzz gets louder along Rhode Island Avenue NE, the neglected commercial corridor has picked up some new enterprises: A marijuana supply store, a chocolate emporium, and now a one-stop-shop for homeless veterans.
Actually, the brick building at 1500 Franklin Street NE has been used as a career services one-stop for the Department of Employment Services for a while now. But the Veterans Administration has recently signed a 20-year lease, and is in the middle of renovating it into a comprehensive resource center open 24/7 for homeless vets, including a medical primary care clinic, cafeteria, psychological counseling, employment assistance, and space for non-profit service providers—-everything but housing, for which veterans receive special vouchers. It’s one of 15 contracts for similar centers awarded nationwide, and will be the first of its kind in the Washington area.
“I think we are the most comprehensive,” says the facility’s medical director, Fuad Issa. “We’re consolidating all the services that a homeless vet might need in one place.”
It’s also one example of how homeless veterans, who compose 14 percent of all homeless adults, tend to have a lot more resources available to them than folks who haven’t served in the military. Advocates tell me that D.C.’s last strategic plan to combat homelessness actually included such a resource center, and that a request for proposals even went out, but was pulled when the city ran into a funding crunch. It’s great to see the consolidation of services and a focus on homelessness prevention—-but it would be nice if those resources were available to all.
The center is expected to open sometime in mid-April.