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Chamber considers veterans home

VIDALIA — The quest for a veteran’s center in the Miss-Lou is heating up.

The Concordia Parish Chamber of Commerce will focus its March meeting Tuesday on the impact these programs can have on a community.

Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District Executive Director Heather Malone said leaders from both Mississippi and Louisiana are applying for federal grants to start the Miss-Lou Veteran’s Health and Resource Center.

“There is a group in the Miss-Lou that has been meeting for the past four to five months,” she said. “Our initial focus is to provide transitional housing program for the veterans.”

Malone said Ferriday was selected as the best location for the veteran’s center and now the focus is on applying for both capital and per diem grants from the Veteran’s Administration.

“Per diem grants would give us money each day per veteran we house,” she said.

Malone said the group has traveled and viewed other veteran’s centers to see how things are run.

“We got some really good ideas from them,” she said. “Now we are looking for a starting point on how many beds we can have to start out.”

Malone said the group is also working to identify programs the center would provide that our necessary in the Miss-Lou.

“During our research we have been talking about programs we can provide and we have the means for already,” she said. “We just need to use the resources we already have.”

Malone said services for behavioral health problems, drug or alcohol problems and credit counseling already exist.

Providing veterans with help other than housing is a crucial step to ending the problem, Malone said.

“The purpose is not just to house them but to get them back on their feet and into the community as a respective citizen,” she said.

Job skills training and resume building will also be programs Malone said the shelter will offer.

Malone said the guest speaker at Tuesday’s chamber meeting, Wilfred Gallien Jr., is a prime example of someone whose life was turned around by his local veteran’s center.

Gallien suffered through 16 years of alcohol and drug addiction and being homeless before finding help through a shelter similar to the proposed one in Ferriday.

Gallien now has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in counseling and serves as a motivational speaker.

“We wanted to bring someone in who could explain the services and how they work,” Malone said.

“Through (Gallien’s) experiences, you can really see were the few services we have can truly change someone’s life.”

Malone said addressing the needs of the area’s veterans is long overdue in the Miss-Lou.

“We have people in this situation and we don’t have the resources for them,” she said. “We need to try and help our own.”

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