GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As people walked into the brand new Michigan Veteran Homes along Monroe Avenue, a feeling of excitement filled the air. Hundreds of people were gathered in a common area discussing their thoughts about the facility, which gave off the scent of a freshly finished home.
That's exactly what this place will be for 128 people who gave a piece of themselves in service to others -- home.
"This has been a labor of love that started about five years ago with the planning and consideration of how we were going to bring our system of care for our veterans and their dependents into the 21st century," said Fred Schaible who serves as the Deputy Director of Engagements with the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
The state has been working to transition veterans from the institutional model of care they experienced at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans to a community based model.
"It really is taking folks out of what was more of a hospital-like setting and putting them into their home. So we're very excited for that very member-centric care that we'll be able to provide here," Schaible said.
The 128-bed facility is divided into four neighborhoods.
"It's like being in your house. It's got a living room, dining room, and a kitchen, and then the member rooms are surrounding that. There's also dedicated outdoor space," Schaible said.
There is also a wellness center, a salon, and a bathing suite equipped with a therapeutic jetted tub that Schaible says is "like a spa."
"Throughout the space we've got some very specific clinical resources. As a skilled nursing facility we are able to provide a level of care that meets the needs of folks who may be recovering from a stroke or may have some limiting factors in mobility."
The homes are a $63 million investment by both the state and the federal government combined. The state paid for 35% of the cost and the federal government paid for the rest.
The work isn't done yet.
"Our long-term goal is to have five new, additional homes built across the state so members are going to be able to reside closer to their home. That's part of the overall goal is to take the beds that were originally here in Grand Rapids and spread them out across the state so it's more geographically dispersed."
While precise locations have not yet been picked yet, the goal is to have one set of homes along the I-94 corridor between Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor, one in Detroit, one in the Saginaw area, one in the northern lower peninsula, and one in Marquette in the upper peninsula.
The first residents will move into the new homes in Grand Rapids on Monday.
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