To the editor:
The proposal by the Veterans National Recovery Center (VNRC) is one of three proposals pending before the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for future use of the now closed 39 building VA Hospital Complex in Knoxville. It aims to use the complex for a healing and training center for homeless, incipient homeless, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) distressed and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) distressed veterans. Healing therapies will be holistic, involving intensive group counseling and other techniques, nearly all of which are in the standard VA menu of holistic healing therapies.
I know and have heard that many are excited that we may by coming to Knoxville. I have also heard that some in the community may have concerns. This letter is to address the interests of both groups.
VNRC will work to minimize any negative impacts for Knoxville. The Knoxville campus will not be a hospital – only a residential facility where healing and training occurs. Because of costs and regulatory concerns, the VNRC does not intent to license the facility at a higher level at this time, and will thus be precluded from taking certain categories of veterans.
To cover any veterans that may require intensive medical or psychiatric attention, we have made tentative arrangements with the VA in Des Moines as well as the Iowa Veterans Home. Prior to arrival at VNRC, aggressive screening of applicants will assure that the veterans living on campus will be individuals that want to be helped, and have needs that are within the capabilities of VNRC to heal them. At the end of the healing period, these veterans will be people that you will be proud to have as your next-door neighbor.
For those that are interested in the economic development of Knoxville, VNRC will be a vital boost that brings wonderful benefits to the Knoxville area. Here is a partial listing:
1. VNRC brings a campus of the Des Moines Area Community College to Knoxville. Several have tried to get DMACC to come to Knoxville, but DMACC was unable to because there was an insufficient student body. VNRC offers an instant 1200 person student body to fill the campus, and this is a major attraction for DMACC. Further, this student body rotates out every two years and is refreshed with a new batch. We will make the VNRC-DMACC campus open to the citizens of Knoxville and all others from southern Iowa that wish to attend, and will hold one dorm building open for that purpose. The long term financial benefit to Knoxville is substantial. Not counting local students, only resident veterans, in our application, we calculate the 70 year economic benefit to the community as $140,000,000. Additionally, William Penn University has recently agreed to join the VNRC Education Planning Group. This means that we will also have upper level classes for both a bachelors as well as a masters degree at Knoxville.
2. VNRC will bring 280 full time positions to the campus. These are professional and managerial positions required to operate the campus on a full-time basis. While they may not all reside in Knoxville, many will. At full staff capacity, the VNRC calculates the 70 year economic benefit to the local area to be = 620,000,000.
3. VNRC will bring tourism to Knoxville. The planned Peace Tree Arboretum will be a centerpiece for veterans and day-trippers from Des Moines and Kansas City that with to see the beauty. The Trail of Military Patches, which will be in and around the arboretum, can bring veterans from all over the country that wish to see a huge memorial to various units and ships. It becomes a wonderful exercise trail for the citizens of Knoxville.
4. VNRC is planning an entrepreneurial center to support the jobs needs of our veterans. This will be franchise centered, and may result in a substantial support base within the Knoxville community.
5. We are planning a small retail complex on campus to support our veterans, provide retail training for veterans, and support tourism. These retail operations, some of which will be leased to local businesses, are calculated in our application to create $105,000,000 in community benefit over a 70-year period.
6. For our animal training therapy, we plan to have a facility for training seeing-eye and companion dogs and have a letter of intent from a group to do so.
7. We bring a people base that can be made available for future industrial expansions.
8. VNRC can bring a huge transfer of federal revenue to community from the cost of operation, much of which will be paid for by the federal government.
9. VNRC will bring pride to the Knoxville community, which will be known for housing a vital national experiment for the treatment of homeless and PTSD distressed veterans.
At least 126,000 US military veterans go to sleep without a home every night, many as a result of events not of their own making. Nationally, there is a huge shortage of beds for homeless veterans, but Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has pledged to eliminate homelessness among veterans by within 5 years.
I am proud that Iowa and Knoxville will be part of the solution to this pressing national problem. The goodwill of citizens of Knoxville and the region is important to the VNRC. Mutual problem solving will make Knoxville a greater community and an even better place to live than it is today. I pledge that I will personally work for transparency and open relations with the community, and will continue to meet with people to resolve common problems.
Veterans National Recovery Center
PO Box 12007
Des Moines, Iowa 50312