On August 7, Smith Anderson attorney, retired U.S. Army Colonel and Chairman of the Board for the Veterans Life Center (VLC) David Hayden, accompanied WRAL-TV reporter Bryan Mims on a site tour of the new VLC facility underway in Butner, North Carolina. Joining the tour was VLC Executive Director and Retired Marine Brigadier General Thomas Gorry and VLC Founder and Senior Advisor John Turner, both of whom provided insight on the brilliant vision of the center designed to help at-risk veterans return to self-reliance.
“There are a lot of organizations in North Carolina that support veterans, but I had a conversation with John Turner years ago, and he had a vision of a solution I’d not heard before,” said David. “I thought it was a brilliant idea and I wanted to be part of it. I’ve been a supporter of this idea, this vision you see coming to fruition, for several years now.”
A first-of-its-kind facility, the VLC’s goal is to help make the transition to civilian life smoother for veterans and to prevent them from falling back into crisis, such as chronic homelessness, post-traumatic stress, trouble finding a job, incarceration, suicide or premature death. The VLC’s mission is to improve the lives of North Carolina’s veterans who are experiencing reintegration challenges by providing temporary housing and services with the goal of achieving self-reliance in two years or less.
U.S. Senator Thom Tillis and U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie also visited the work-in-progress facility. In a statement to UNC-TV, Sec. Wilkie stated, “North Carolina is experiencing probably the most rapid growth in the number of veterans who call North Carolina home of any state, and by 2030, North Carolina will have passed California in terms of the number of veterans.”
In an effort to address the rising statistics of troubled veterans, the center will have room for 100 veterans to live: 76 men and 24 women. They will also have access to amenities such as a computer lab, a fitness center, a chapel and a meditation garden.
In the on-site interview, WRAL-TV reporter Bryan Mims delved deeper into what will make this center quite unlike any other. "Most importantly, what a veteran is going to get who comes through the Veterans Life Center is a mentor," said Founder John Turner. With the ability to stay for up to two years, veterans are each assigned a case manager and will receive the medical care and job training needed to reintegrate into society.
Echoing John’s sentiments, David further explains the brilliance behind this concept. “It was holistic, all-encompassing, in an environment that veterans don’t necessarily have as an option,” says David. “One solution for many veterans is to get a voucher to go to a hotel room, but they’re by themselves with nobody else. The other is to give them a job that doesn’t really have a meaningful long-term solution for their issues. Those solutions aren’t in an environment with other veterans.”
Bolstered by a $7.8 million Community Development Block Grant, the largest such grant in state history, and with more than $2 million in private funding, the VLC is set to open in the spring of 2020 and begin helping veterans return to self-reliance.
“There are more veterans in North Carolina who need these services than we have facilities for,” says David. “We can’t help everybody, but we can try and help the problem one person at a time, one veteran at a time.”
Col. Hayden served as both an Engineer and JAG Corps Officer in the United States Army during a 29-year active military career. He joined Smith Anderson in 2011 and has extensive experience in government contracting, corporate investigations (internal and government) and employment law. He regularly advises companies on corporate governance matters and other general corporate and business matters. David also represents a variety of defense contractors, advising on a broad range of federal contracting issues. David previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina and as a member of the Department of Justice Procurement Fraud Task Force for the Southeast.
To learn more about the Veterans Life Center, please visit http://vlcnc.org/ or call 919.803.5516.
For the full WRAL interview and online article, click here.