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A new drop-in center for homeless veterans opened this week in Springfield. KSMU's Jennifer Moore took a tour of the center, which has already had its share of controversy.
Inside what used was once the Social Security Administration building on 806 North Jefferson, three staff members wait for someone to walk through their doors.
This week, the Veterans Coming Home Center opened its doors for homeless veterans seeking to get off the streets.
Hank Czenowitz, the program director, says the center will offer counseling, meals, and an incentive program for homeless veterans to get back on their feet.
A nationwide survey of homeless men in 2007 showed 32 percent were veterans. Czenowitz says veterans are more likely to be homeless for several reasons, one of which stems from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. They don't get the counseling they need to recover from the trauma of war, and often turn to drugs or alcohol.
Czenowitz gives me a tour of the new facility. Right now it's one huge, carpeted room with a few offices at the back. All the cubicles from the old Social Security offices have been removed.
The center is funded by New Life Evangelistic Center, headed by the Reverend Larry Rice.
The homeless will not sleep there. They drop in during opening hours to receive counseling and other services.
Still, there has been significant concern that the center will bring crime to the neighborhood. The City of Springfield and Springfield Public Schools tried to stop the center from opening here, but their efforts failed. The center is just south of Central High School.
Reverend Jerry Miller of St. John's Episcopal Church in Springfield sits on the advisory board to the homeless drop-in. Miller says as a neighbor and as president of the Midtown Neighborhood Association, he sees this center as a resource for getting people off the streets.
He says the center has spent eight thousand dollars to put up a chain-link fence so that people don't congregate their after it's closed. Also, the center is located directly across the street from the Springfield Police Department.
The center is the first drop-in specifically for homeless veterans in Springfield.
For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.