- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

TOMAH, Wis. (AP) - The Tomah VA Medical Center is ending its lease agreement with a foundation that has long operated a shelter for homeless veterans, citing numerous incidents at the facility.

The Veterans Assistance Foundation has operated the shelter for nearly 20 years at the center. But Tomah VA spokesman Matthew Gowan said authorities have responded to more than 30 incidents involving shelter residents over the last six months, including a suicide attempt, a drug overdose and criminal violations.

Gowan also noted that a veteran’s recent death at the shelter is being investigated by local police and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General.

The center has given the foundation notice that it will end the lease in January, Wisconsin Public Radio reported https://bit.ly/2dOqQGg .

Foundation President Christopher Hanson said he was “flabbergasted” that Tomah officials didn’t share concerns about safety with him before making the decision. Gowan said VA officials reached out to other foundation staff because Hanson is currently serving in Afghanistan, though Hanson said he has been available via email.

“Unfortunately, the veterans population that we see, that go into our residential programs, that population is becoming much more difficult,” Hanson said.

About 40 veterans live at the shelter. Hansen anticipates that the number will increase as colder weather sets in.

“The Tomah VA has absolutely no authority to close a private, independent program,” Gowan said. “So they would be totally free and able to continue the program that they offer, and we would still continue to support the residents that are that program off of federal property.”

Hanson said his foundation is looking for another location, but noted that the group must receive approval from its national grant program before moving to a different location.

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Information from: Wisconsin Public Radio, https://www.wpr.org


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