Assisted-living center for wounded combat veterans gets OK from Omaha City Council

U.S. troops wounded in combat who lack the family or financial support to care for themselves at home could soon have another housing option.

The Omaha City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved zoning changes and early plans for the Dunham House, a 40-acre military-focused assisted-living complex.

The first step in the project calls for building an administration building and two housing units near 120th Street and Rainwood Road in northwest Omaha.

Those buildings would house 22 to 24 combat veterans who suffered traumatic brain injuries, with plans to build more housing units and serve as many as 125 veterans.

The veterans served might need help buttoning a shirt, using the bathroom or taking a bath, but could live independently with a little help, organizers said. These veterans don’t need the additional medical support of a nursing home.

Starting construction is contingent on continued private fundraising by Wounded Warriors Family Support, an Omaha-based nonprofit started by retired Marine Col. John Folsom.

His local group raises money nationally to support the families of troops wounded or killed in combat. The group had raised more than $2 million, Folsom said.

It needs to raise about $11 million to make the project a reality. Tuesday’s 7-0 vote to shift future industrial land to residential use was a key step, Folsom said.

Having the zoning and plat approved should help Wounded Warriors Family Support secure more support from donors, Folsom and former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub said.

“This now really paves the way for our efforts to raise money for the first buildings,” Daub said.

City Council members Aimee Melton, Brinker Harding and Rich Pahls praised organizers for the nature of the project and the support it has garnered.

Melton said she heard about the project from her son, whose school wrote letters of support for Wounded Warriors Family Support that the group used to raise funds.

Dunham House, if it raises the necessary funds, plans an admissions committee to weigh the needs of applicants with the services it offers.

Wounded Warriors Family Support Inc. bought 80 acres of land at the rural northwest Omaha site for $1 million in January. The 40 acres on the north end of the site will house veterans.

Folsom said his group has not decided what to do with the southern 40 acres but said it might work with someone to turn the land into a nature preserve.

“If we can get Omaha involved, we’re in the center of the country,” Folsom said. “We can attract people from all over, nationally.”

He said he hopes to start construction “as soon as possible.”

Aaron covers political news for The World-Herald.
Follow him on Twitter @asanderford
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