Homeless veterans program at old Navy base to relocate

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A homeless veterans program, which has helped thousands of vets get back on their feet, is being forced to relocate. But for some of these veterans, change is difficult when they're looking for stability.

"The move is going to be upsetting, somewhat," Joe Towles said.

Towles works for the Chesapeake Health Education Program, a transitional housing facility for veterans on the old Charleston Navy Base.

He said the program's relocation will be hard for many of the veterans

"Change in early recover is not always fun. It's fearful," Towles said.

He knows first-hand what recovery is like.

In 2003, this Vietnam vet was homeless and addicted to drugs.

"I went to the VA emergency room and they put me on the psych ward. I was suicidal," Towles said.

At the VA, he was told about the Chesapeake program, and the Veteran Villas on the old navy base, where he could live while he recovered.

Veterans who live here go to outpatient treatment for addiction at the VA.

Now, he's helping others in need.

"Recovery fellowship is awesome in that you find a new way to live through the 12-Step program," Towles said.

The Veteran Villas will be moving, though. The property was bought by South Carolina Public Railways, and Towles said the amount of rent the railroad wanted to charge was more than Chesapeake could afford.

They have until Oct. 31 to relocate to two former apartment buildings on Millstone Drive off Ashley Phosphate.

Towles said even though it'll be hard to say goodbye to the navy base, it's important to show the residents change can be a good thing.

"It's something we've got to do, and it's only going to happen with a positive spin," Towles said.

Chesapeake's program director said if they would've signed a lease with the railroad, it would cost several thousand dollars to stay on the property.

Right now, they only have to pay insurance and maintenance costs.

Since 1998, the program has helped over 2,000 veterans get back on their feet.

About 28 vets live at the facility at a time, and Towles said the new building will be able to accommodate the same amount.

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