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
402-444-1135


Proposed assisted-living center for wounded veterans has a site northwest of Omaha

A nonprofit group founded by a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel has obtained a site and is marching toward city zoning approvals for a proposed assisted-living center for wounded veterans in suburban Omaha.

That constitutes a step forward for retired Col. John Folsom’s vision, but it still has a long trek ahead before becoming reality. He estimates that it will cost $11 million, and the group has about $2 million on hand, Folsom said.

The site is farm ground northwest of 120th Street and Rainwood Road. That’s about a half-mile west of the Omaha Public Safety Training Center in a mostly rural area northwest of Omaha.

Wounded Warriors Family Support, the Omaha-based nonprofit that Folsom founded to support families of U.S. troops wounded or killed in combat, proposes to build a 24-bed residential home for combat-wounded veterans who have no one in their lives capable of providing day-to-day care. It could someday house as many as 100 veterans in 10 home-like living units adjacent to an administrative building.

Folsom said it would serve people who were severely wounded in combat, including those who suffered traumatic brain injuries, an all-too-common occurrence in the United States’ wars in this century.

“These soldiers and sailors would come from all over the States,” he said. “A lot of them are living with their parents. Mom and Dad are going to age out and not be able to take care of them anymore. ... They’re going to get dumped in a civilian assisted-living facility. We think we can do better.”

Wounded Warriors Family Support Inc. paid $1 million to purchase 80 acres of farmland from Mount Calvary Commandery #1 in January, according to Douglas County records.

Wounded Warriors hopes to build its facility on the northern half of the property. It hasn’t said what it would do with the southern 40 acres.

The organization is asking the City of Omaha to rezone the property from agricultural to residential. The city’s future land use map envisions the land as being home to industry someday, but city planners have indicated that they think it would be acceptable to change that to residential.

City planners want Wounded Warriors to submit suitable plans for building a street from Rainwood Road into its building site, widening Rainwood Road for a turn lane and creating a stub street for future development.

The street off Rainwood Road would have to be built to withstand heavy-duty vehicles because adjoining property is still planned as future industrial land.

City planners also want the organization to submit analyses of trees and any wetlands on the property. And they want the developers to coordinate with the Omaha Public Works Department on connecting to a sanitary sewer line.

Those are all standard requirements for a development in such an area. The Omaha Planning Board voted last week to postpone a vote on preliminary plans and rezoning for the site to give the organization time to work on the details.

HDR Inc. representatives have been working with city planners and are confident they will have those details worked out in time for a Planning Board vote in August, said Robert Hailey of HDR, the lead architect on the project.

Hailey, a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, said city planning officials have reacted positively to the design. As for the proposed housing arrangement, Hailey said it is the type of footprint the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs wants to move toward: smaller, family-like living quarters, or pods, around a larger common building.

Meanwhile, Folsom is hoping that the idea catches on with donors.

“I think it will, if somehow we can get national attention on this,” he said. “I don’t believe that anybody in America is doing what we’re proposing to do.”



Colonel Folsom discusses the mission of the Dunham House with KETV's Chinh Doan

An Omaha group is raising money to help heroes coming home with severe injuries.

The non-profit has started fundraising with the goal of building a $10 million long-term care center in the metro for veterans.

In the 80 acres of corn stubble along Rainwood Road in Douglas County, an idea is growing to help our wounded heroes.

“This has been a horrific war and TBI, traumatic brain injury, has been a signature wound of this war with the IEDs and severe amputations and spinal injuries,” said retired Marine Corps Col. John Folsom.

Folsom is the president of Wounded Warriors Family Support, a non-profit he founded in Omaha.

He told KETV NewsWatch 7 his group believes the location in the middle of the country is convenient for veterans and their visitors.

Plans for phase one include a 16,000 sq. ft. facility with 20 beds.

It'll be called Dunham House, named after Corp. Jason Dunham, who died in 2004.

Folsom said Dunham deliberately covered an enemy grenade to save nearby marines.

“We're going to honor Jason and his memory with the idea that I very much believe: That no greater love hath a man or a woman for his or her friends than to lay down one's life,” said Folsom.

Folsom shared the idea was planted years ago, when he saw a soldier living with traumatic brain injury.

“The thought that I had is that, ‘What's going to happen to him when his mother can no longer take care of him? Who's going to take care of this young soldier?'” asked Folsom.

The group hopes to develop the facility into a healing campus as more veterans come home with life-changing injuries.

“We have an obligation forever to take care of these veterans, and that's what we're going to do,” said Folsom.

Wounded Warriors Family Support hopes to open the first phase in December 2020.


HDR to Help Identify Site/Plan Space for Wounded Combat Vets’ Residence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HDR to Help Identify Site/Plan Space for Wounded Combat Vets’ Residence

Wounded Warriors Family Support, an Omaha-based national nonprofit, has retained HDR to help identify the space planning and site requirements for a new residential home in rural Douglas County for those wounded in combat.

The residence, called the Dunham House, will accommodate combat-wounded veterans who require various levels of care resulting from traumatic brain injuries. Design elements will focus on health and wellness, views of the rural landscape, accessibility and family living—all in a campus-like setting.

“Many young soldiers’ and U.S. Marines’ mothers are their primary caregivers. What will happen to them when their mothers can no longer care for them? Where will they go?” asked Retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. John Folsom, who founded Wounded Warriors Family Support and is spearheading the project. “We have identified an emerging and urgent requirement and we will meet it head on. With the support of Americans, we will provide a home for our combat-wounded veterans who need our help.”

Current alternatives for combat-wounded veterans with no family support are assisted living centers and veterans’ homes, which tend to be populated by older residents and those who don’t have the same combat experience.

“HDR is excited to partner with Wounded Warriors Family Support and Project Advocates on this very important project that embraces our local disabled veterans,” said Robert Hailey, lead architect and project manager. “In fact, HDR’s lead designer, Michael Hamilton and I are both war veterans ourselves. We’re excited to lead the charge on the design of this residence, which will provide disabled veterans with the best quality of life for their unyielding sacrifice to our country.”

Hal Daub, who serves on Wounded Warriors Family Support’s board and building committee, said he’s confident that the organization will be able to raise an estimated $6 to $10 million to cover the cost of building the residence and to create an endowment for ongoing operations. The organization has committed up to $150,000 for the initial planning and preparation stages, and has hired Project Advocates, a project management firm, to work alongside HDR during the planning phase.

The Dunham House was named in honor of Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, United States Marine Corps, who served with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines,1st Marine Division. A recipient of the Medal of Honor, he died in 2005 of injuries he suffered when protecting fellow Marines in Husaybah, Iraq.

About HDR
For more than a century, HDR has partnered with clients to shape communities and push the boundaries of what’s possible. Our expertise spans nearly 10,000 employees, in more than 200 locations around the world — and counting. Our engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services bring an impressive breadth of knowledge to every project. Our optimistic approach to finding innovative solutions defined our past and drives our future.

 

About Wounded Warriors Family Support

Our mission is to provide support to the families of those who have been wounded, injured or killed during combat operations. The families of our casualties suffer in many ways: some financially, some psychologically. More information can be found at wwfs.org and dunhamhouse.org.

 

Media Contacts:

Mary Zgoda, HDR
402.399.1372
mary.zgoda@hdrinc.com

Amy LaMar, HDR
402.548.5179
amy.lamar@hdrinc.com