Norman Hnawalt plays with Charlie at Berakhah House n Sioux Falls, S.D. last month. / Emily Spartz, Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D.
SIOUX FALLS, S..D -- It's not every day that a charity declares victory and closes its doors, but that happened in May 2009 with the Berakhah House. The facility, which had been founded in 1995 by a Presentation Sisters nun as a hospice and 24-hour nursing facility for people suffering from AIDS, was no longer needed.
Medical advances against AIDS had rendered Berakhah House's original mission obsolete. Still, there were other needs, and the Catholic Diocese of Sioux F
alls, which owns the building, teamed up with Volunteers of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs to reopen Berakhah House in 2
010 - this time as a temporary housing facility for homeless veterans.
The facility can house nine veterans at a time, each with his or her own room, bathroom, television and other amenities. They share common eating and relaxation areas. A recent $116,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation remodeled bedrooms, the kitchen and paid for a new roof.
Veterans typically have 60 days at Berakhah House, a time that allows them to stabilize their lives, find jobs and permanent housing in the community, usually with assistance from the VA, said Chris Nelson, the veterans services coordinator for Volunteers of America. The VA determines their eli
gibility, and the facility averages about 50 veterans a year.
"Everybody who comes here has to be homeless," Nelson said.
They get three meals a day, and they can also receive services for addiction and mental health problems, Nelson said.
Tim Brooks, 53, came to Berakhah House from Sioux City, Iowa. He served in the Army National Guard from 1977-79 and the Navy from 1979-83.
One bad decision made years ago - drinking and driving - cost him his mechanic's license and triggered a downward spiral that left him homeless, he said. But now, with the help of the Berakhah House, he's hopeful that he can find work and a permanent apartment.
"Berakhah House is excellent," Brooks said. "I wish they had more facilities like this all over the United States.
"They're really beneficial to veterans."
Ellis also reports for the (Sioux Falls, S.D.) Argus Leader
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Read the original story: For South Dakota homeless vets, a temporary haven