One of the most concerning issues for military veterans is homelessness. Whether vets are struggling with mental health issues or simply don’t have the funds for a home, one state is offering a solution.

The Togus Veterans Administration Medical Center in Chelsea, Maine, has recently opened the Cabin in the Woods project. This project is dedicated to providing homeless veterans in Maine more than just a home.

Building the Cabin in the Woods

At the Togus VA Medical Center, 21 veterans now have their very own home as part of the Cabin in the Woods project. Here, both male and female veterans reside with their families in a permanent home. The homes were built by the Volunteers of America New England.

The organization has experience in providing services for homeless veterans. Currently, the organization runs the Arthur B. Huot House, a co-ed transitional home for vets. In addition, they operate the Veterans Career House, which provides career services for male vets who are homeless. While both offer some form of homeless veteran services, the Volunteers of America is breaking new ground, literally, with the Cabin in the Woods community.

Sixteen homes have a single bedroom while five homes have two bedrooms. All of the homes are appropriately called cabins thanks to their size at less than 800 square feet. However, the project offers veterans more than just a roof over their heads.

According to the Volunteers of America Northern New England president and CEO, Richard Wayman, "Some of our military veterans need a quiet place to help them transition into a daily routine. Cabin in the Woods, along with other support services will help them achieve that."

Improving Health and Wellness for Veterans

Located on 11 acres on the forested property at Togus VA Medical Center, formerly homeless veterans are in close proximity to health care at the hospital. This enables these vets to receive medical services without worrying about how they will get to their appointments. Whereas the location gives residents plenty of privacy and picturesque scenery, this access to the hospital is a lifesaver for some residents.

Wayman noted, "Permanent housing with easy proximity to the services available at Togus is invaluable to someone struggling to re-establish their place in society. This has just been an amazing partnership that I think will really benefit the veterans and their families that are moving in."

Financing Housing for Homeless Vets

To be able to finance the veteran community, the Maine Housing Tax Credit Allocation is funding $4.2 million of the project. In addition, the Togus VA Medical Center has received a 75-year lease on the land for the homes via the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This ensures that the Cabin in the Woods community will not be disturbed due to zoning or land use issues.

Other government and federal agencies collaborating with the Volunteers of America for this project include the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development; VA Maine Healthcare System; Community Development Services; and the Maine State Housing Authority.

The Home Depot Foundation has provided substantial funding for the construction costs of the cabins. Other private partners involved with supporting this project include Bangor Savings Bank; Doree Taylor Charitable Fund; Housing Ministries of New England; Jane’s Trust; Langford & Low; Robert Foster Architecture; and the TD Charitable Foundation.

Meet a Resident

Speaking of residents, how has the reception of the Cabin in the Woods project been by those living there? According to Tim Buckmore, one of the first residents in the Cabin in the Woods, this project should only be the start of something that is carried nationwide. "I tell you what, this is incredible. They need to spend more money on programs like this."

He added, "I’m so grateful for the privacy and the quietness and how easy it is to get to my appointments. Plus the people who made this happen for me have been so helpful and nice. This is a great investment if veterans and I think it’s long overdue."