The Casper Housing Authority wants to make it easier for Wyoming’s veterans to obtain assistance and care.
“Wyoming has so many veterans, we are clearly a very patriotic state,” said Executive Director Kim Summerall-Wright. “I feel that it’s important when our veterans come home, that they have access to the services that they have earned.”
The housing group purchased the former Roosevelt High School in north Casper for $430,000 last spring, with the intention of turning the 22,500 square foot property into a one-stop shop for veterans’ services.
That goal is one step closer to being realized after the Casper City Council approved rezoning the land under the former high school.
“The city felt it was a reasonable request,” Councilman Dallas Laird said Thursday.
City Council approved a $432,749 low-interest loan for the housing authority last January, which allowed the agency to buy the school building. Summerall-Wright previously told the Star-Tribune that because the housing authority is a public agency rather than a nonprofit, it is not eligible for bank loans, because banks are not allowed to seize government assets in the case of a default.
The executive director explained Wednesday that the organization was eager to buy the former school, because the agency always prefers to work with existing buildings rather than starting from scratch.
“We do a lot of revitalization projects,” she said. “We like to see things taken and then put back into use, not torn down.”
The former educational facility, which was built in 1922, closed after the end of the 2016 school year.
The property will be renamed The Landing at Roosevelt, and the center will offer veterans’ housing, a veterans’ memorial wall, community gardens, a farmers’ market and possibly a clinic, according to Summerall-Wright. Office space will also be rented out to other agencies, such as Inter-Faith of Natrona County, which has already signed up to be a tenant.
“We want veterans to be able to walk in the door and say ‘I need help’ and we can just connect them to services,” said Summerall-Wright.
Work is already underway on the property, and the project is expected to be fully completed within a year. The executive director estimated that the total project, including the clinic, will cost about $3.5 million.
The housing authority has currently raised about two-thirds of the costs, she added.
City Planner Craig Collins said Wednesday that he thinks the veterans’ center will be a great asset for the city.
“I think consolidating [veterans] services in one area is efficient and a good use of resources,” he said.
According to a recent report from the Casper Housing Authority, Wyoming has the seventh-most veterans of any state in the country, and about 8 percent are living at or below the poverty level.