GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Six years after a scathing report called into question the care given to veterans and their dependents at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, new hope has risen on the site.
Residents will soon move in to the home’s new $63 million facility.
If the outside doesn’t give it away, you’ll notice a change when you walk into the new home, because it feels like one.
“This is the community center. This is where all of the neighborhoods feed into. Think of it as your downtown,” Fred Schaible, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said as he provided a guided tour of the new home for News 8.
Other amenities includes single bedrooms, each with their own bathroom and large windows that let the light shine in. Each arm, or “neighborhood,” of the new home features dining areas that include large outdoor space.
“Every household has this,” Schaible said.
“So we can dine, we can barbeque, we can grill the meal,” the home’s Community Engagement Coordinator Tiffany Carr added.
The new layout is a far cry from the sterile, institution-style building with roots dating back to the Civil War that it’s replacing. The new house is a single-story series of four sections with 32 rooms each.
“There’s a concept called the small house model, and that’s really what this home is. It’s a small house, small neighborhoods within the larger community,” Schaible said. “The small house model should provide a much more intimate environment, where it’s encouraging the staff and the resident members to sit down together and socialize and talk.”
The new facility also represents a major change from when the home last made headlines. A 2016 audit of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans found false reports filed on bed checks, inadequate staffing and allegations of abuse that were ignored by management.
The report lead to a bipartisan effort in Lansing to set things right.
“I think that motivated a lot of folks to really get this done. But it’s not just a building, so you can’t just slap paint on something and call it good. It took a culture shift,” Schaible said.
That shift included changes at the top and a new approach to care.
“Government doesn’t always react quickly, but this is a good example of when you get all of the players and all of the stakeholders together for a really good, shared goal, we can achieve great things,” Schaible said.
Changes will also impact families of loved ones who have often had to travel long distances to see residents living in the homes in Grand Rapids and the Upper Peninsula. The new concept features smaller homes in more areas of the state, including a new facility in the Detroit area.
“The long term goal is to get five more homes constructed, probably, depending on funding, over the next 10 to 15 years,” Schaible said. “Obviously the veterans, their status and their service, deserves our respect and our honor. But these are people’s parents and their grandparents. They deserve the good care.”
Veterans living in the home could still use help from the public. The state has put out the call for donations to fund therapy and quality of life programs, among other things.
Residents will begin moving in next week. It will be a gradual move in, likely completed around Christmas.