Less than three months after opening to homeless veterans, Veterans Village in Bend has its first graduate.
“This is a place to come and get yourself organized,” said Michael Jacobsen, Veterans Village’s first graduate.
The Navy veteran, who served in Lebanon when the U.S. Marine barracks were bombed in 1983, was among the first homeless veterans invited to live in Veterans Village.
He was living in an RV until it got crushed in a car accident and then in hotels.
He says Veterans Village helped him figure out his Veteran’s Administration benefits, obtain treatment for his health issues and find permanent housing.
“There are counselors available. There are treatment plans available for those who think they want treatment or need treatment. There are things for everybody who comes,” Jacobsen said.
“We’d love to have 15 more Michaels come through these doors in the next few months, but the reality is there’s going to be guys that have greater needs than Michael has,” said David Nieradka, Veterans Village Coordinator. “It’s a great example of what we can do here and how we can help these guys out.”
Residents of Veterans Village sleep in tiny, heated cabins.
They gather in a community center to do their laundry, cook meals and meet with counselors to figure out next steps.
Jacobsen said he knows guys living on the streets who don’t know about places like Veterans Village. “They don’t know that they have benefits available. They didn’t even know they could go to the clinic. They didn’t even know where the clinic is,” he said.
Jacobsen walked out of Veterans Village for the last time Wednesday.
His parting advice to other vets is a variation on the old “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em” line:
“There’s lots of services available. Start using them. You know what they say: If you don’t use ‘em, you’re going to lose ‘em.”
Nieradka said it’s a strange not seeing Jacobsen at the village every day, “having that interaction but we’ve got guys to replace him and we’ll carry on.”
Veterans Village opened in November.
Eight units are occupied.
The remaining seven are being completed and should be occupied within a matter of weeks.
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