MADISON, Wis. - A new housing complex for veterans will soon be entering the demolition and construction phases, helping alleviate concerns for those who've served and struggled to find housing when they get out of the service.
"The Valor on Washington" is set to be the largest housing and service development for veterans and their families in the nation. The complex is headed to the county-owned Messner property on East Washington Avenue across the street from the ShopBop and Metro Transit offices.
The project will be a mix of affordable and market-rate units for families with a preference given to veterans in all 59 units.
"Due to the fact of being homeless, credit score being low ... housing was very difficult to find on my own," said Tim Dziekan, who served in the military for 23 years.
Dziekan entered the military at 17 years old. He had four combat tours and served as a combat medic in the Army for many years. He said when he retired from the military in 2008, it was difficult to adjust to civilian life.
"Everything fell apart, and I was just like, 'OK, now what do I do?' I'm homeless. I was living in my friend's basement for about a year and a half and he's like, 'Tim, I can't have you living here anymore,'" Dziekan said.
He now works as a peer counselor for Dryhootch, a local nonprofit that works with veterans and helped him secure housing when he was unable to find it on his own in 2012.
Dryhootch is currently located on University Avenue but it will soon have a new home on the ground floor of the Valor development, providing a larger space in a more central location for veterans in a drug and alcohol-free environment. Dziekan said Valor will act as a "one-stop shop" for veterans.
"This will be a place that veterans can come, be around folks who understand what it's like to be a veteran. It'll have Dryhootch, a place for veterans to be on the ground floor. It's a place for people to congregate and socialize," said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.
The building will also have a coffee shop open to the public, workout facilities, group areas for writing, art and support groups, a mechanic shop, training spaces, and video game areas, according to Parisi's office.