Banks visits facility for homeless vets

September 19, 2018

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks toured the Richard Lugar Safe Haven for Veterans on Tuesday, hearing from officials and temporary residents at the homeless shelter.

A resident told Banks, R-3rd, the shelter’s staff had “helped me out a lot.”

“I’m rebounding,” said the 59-year-old Army veteran who had lived in Evansville. “I’m working part time right now. I’m trying to get my home back.

“I’m just happy this place is here. ... It’s my home,” he said.

Larcina Hicks told Banks that the Fairfield Avenue shelter “is the final place” keeping many homeless veterans out of jail : or preventing them from dying. Hicks is senior director of veterans services for Volunteers of America of Ohio and Indiana, a nonprofit, faith-based organization that operates the Lugar Safe Haven.

“The goal is to get that permanent housing,” she said.

Named for former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indianapolis, the shelter can house 25 homeless veterans who each can stay up to six months. Drug use, sexual activities and violence are prohibited at the site, Hicks said.

The staff’s focus is on showing residents “this is what health can look like, this is what stability can look like,” said Amy Sczerbowicz, social work supervisor for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides funding for the Lugar Safe Haven.

Hicks said the shelter needs more money and space so it can house a greater number of female veterans. It currently has space for two female residents.

Kathleen Atkins, vice president of program operations for Volunteers of America of Ohio and Indiana, said female veterans “like to be around each other because they have common issues and they just can be of support to each other.”

At one point of his tour, Banks, a Navy Reserve officer and a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, told staff, “We want to be supportive of what you do.”

He later shared his impressions with reporters.

“Listening to some of the stories of the residents who are here, what they’ve been through and what this facility has brought to them, is an incredible testament to the work that’s being done here,” Banks said.

“It takes money, and I’m well aware of that,” he said, responding to a question about funding needs. Banks said he will continue to talk with shelter officials “about ways that I can support what is being done here on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.”


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