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Veterans home could open Jan. 1

By Staff | Nov 15, 2010

The former adolescent treatment center has been vacant for two months but it is expected to be put back to use as an assisted-living facility for veterans.

It didn’t take long to find a new tenant for the former Adolescent Treatment Center building in Winnebago.

Two months after it was closed, plans for an assisted-living facility for veterans are in the final stages.

“We’re shooting to be open by Jan. 1. That would be the very earliest,” says Jim Birchem of Little Falls.

Parker Oaks administrator Deb Barnes says they are “fine tuning” an agreement with United Hospital District to lease the building.

“We have the paint and carpet picked out for the building,” she says.

Barnes says they’ve started to advertise for a manager and hope to hire someone soon.

Birchem and his wife Kathy started exploring the idea of using the building to provide housing for veterans earlier this year when UHD administrator Jeff Lang attended a meeting at Parker Oaks.

“We really want to focus on the veteran population. There’s a definite need for a facility like this,” says Birchem.

Dave Hanson, veteran service officer for Faribault County, says the number of veterans considered homeless is a nationwide problem, including Faribault County.

So, when Hanson talked with Barnes last Tuesday and was told plans for the veterans facility were moving forward, he was delighted with the news.

“Unfortunately, some veterans have left the area because winter and cold weather is coming,” he says. “It’s sad. They like the area and people, but they don’t have a home or a place to stay.”

The old treatment center, which was built in 1952 as a hospital, was closed Sept. 14 when the new $4 million adolescent treatment facility opened.

Birchem says the nearly 14,000 square foot building is large enough for 10 to 12 residents and maybe as many as 16.

In addition to housing, the veterans facility will provide food and medical services.

The Birchems are the owners of ElderCare, which operates 30 facilities in Minnesota including Parker Oaks in Winnebago.

Most of the facilities are located in the northern part of the state. Ten of the homes are skilled-level operations, while the rest are assisted-living units.