Oakbridge Inn to close, homeless vets must leave

February 9, 2018

Oakbridge Inn, a facility for homeless veterans and others will close March 7 and the residents will have to find other places to live.

Oakbridge Inn, a facility for homeless veterans and others will close March 7 and the residents will have to find other places to live.

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

Oakbridge Inn, a facility that welcomes veterans and others in desperate need of a home, has been sold.

The building has been owned by Karl Walls, himself a veteran, and was named Oakbridge based on the idea that the facility would be a strong bridge from homelessness to a permanent vibrant future.

That future is not so vibrant now.

The new owners, who have not yet been named, will be closing on the property March 1st.

The residents, most still without a place to go, must move out by March 7th.

Oakbridge Inn Executive Director Dave Homan is concerned for his residents. He said they found out about the sale “a couple of weeks ago. We are working to relocate as many as we can with the help of government and private agencies,” he said.

He works at the facility with the help of Assistant Director Jon Turney, who is a retiree, and volunteers much of his time to the facility.

Homan said roughly 45 residents currently live there. On June 30th, 2015, the facility opened as a non-profit transitional veterans’ living facility designed to

Dave Homan, Executive Director and Jon Turner Assistant Director are working with the Oakbridge Inn residents to find them new homes before the March 7 deadline.

Dave Homan, Executive Director and Jon Turner Assistant Director are working with the Oakbridge Inn residents to find them new homes before the March 7 deadline.

provide much needed Veterans’ Administration services, support and a temporary home for former service men in need. It is the only facility of this type in Clare or Isabella Counties.

Since that time, just two and a half years ago, the facility has become a place for not only homeless veterans, but for others in need of a home, and for a small number of local parolees from Clare and Gladwin Counties, who are housed in a separate part of the large building as part of their transition through a re-entry program with Michigan WORKS! and the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Wednesday Homan said there were five people in that section and that they had beds for only a total of eight. All were scheduled to be moved to “alternate housing” this week.  That contract began in September, 2015, and at first caused a lot of controversy for the facility.

Homan in a 2015 interview said, “There are re-entry individuals in the system who could end up here that are also honorably discharged veterans. Is there a difference? He said the re-entry individuals, under a program called “Step To Success,” were housed upstairs in the north part of the building, had no contact with the others at the facility and were tethered and supervised by Michigan WORKS! and DOC officials who help them find work and integrate back into the community.

The others who live at Oakbridge include approximately 12 veterans in need of alternative housing Veteran’s Administration Public Affairs Officer Carrie Seward said Wednesday.

She said, “The VA does not refer Veterans to the Oakbridge facility, however, we have educated Veterans who are homeless that this facility exists in Clare.

Oakbridge meets the needs of homeless Veterans in certain circumstances, for example, those who don’t qualify for VA healthcare, those who choose not to enter (Grant & Per Diem programs, VA transitional housing), homeless Veterans with pets, those who have family members such as a grandparent, Veterans who have been asked to leave our contracted shelters for rule violations, and those Veterans who choose not to enter VA contract emergency shelter for other personal reasons.”

“The Aleda E. Lutz VA has an assigned a Social Work Case Manager for Oakbridge.  This social worker is working with our community partners to locate housing for the affected veterans.  Oakbridge ownership, 8CAP, Clare County Veteran Service Officer, MSHDA, Mid-Michigan CAA, and our VA are all working together to rehouse veterans,” stated Eric Norman, Homeless Veteran Program Manager.

Some of the residents pay rent at the facility, as much as they can afford.

People who cannot use a Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) voucher system through the Mid Michigan Community Action Agency. The voucher system is based on income and can pay a portion or up to 100 percent of their housing cost.

MMCAA Outreach Services Director Eva Rohlman said Thursday, “We have been contacted by homeless individuals who are staying at Oakbridge. Our case manager has been meeting with them and we are hoping to rapidly rehouse them with our program, including Supportive Services for veteran’s families through the Veterans Administration. We also have programs to help other individuals and families who are officially designated as homeless. For other residents we can provide landlord resources in the area.

If they didn’t have any means of support at all, they were still able to stay here, Homan said. “We have provided housing for people with no income and no place to go. What is going to happen to them when March 7th arrives? The need is far greater than people realize.”

Homan said they have provided about 3,000 room nights with no income at all.

That means the facility almost always operates at a deficit. Homan said Karl Walls, who leases the facility to Oakbridge Inn, has been very generous to them.
In spite of all that, Homan said he wants to continue to help people. “I wish there was a place where Oakbridge Inn could continue to operate. We are the only facility of our kind in the area. We even welcome service animals, something not allowed at many other facilities.”

The residents living at Oakbridge Inn include not only veterans, but local disadvantaged people without homes. “The community and area Churches have been very generous to us,” Homan said. “We have had so much support here, especially with food and (items for) personal needs.”

He spoke of one current resident who had arrived in Clare without funds and was planning to walk to Coleman in hopes of finding family. “Someone provided a meal and referred that person to us for a place to stay,” he said.

Homan, who has been the director since Oakbridge opened, added, “It’s been an interesting ride. If we could continue it I’d do it. I’m still hoping we can find another location in the area.”

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