On Monday, February 17, community dignitaries, public officials, veterans’ representatives, and members of the neighborhood gathered in Old Town for a grand-opening ceremony for the Aspire Center; Aspire is an acronym for "American Service members Providing Inspirational Resilience Every day."
The 40-bed facility offers short-term residential rehabilitation primarily for young veterans from the military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer often-neglected psychological wounds from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Two years ago, when the Department of Veterans Affairs released plans for developing the center, Old Town residents and nearby businesses raised significant objections based on fears and misconceptions about whether the program — designed to mitigate and eventually serve as model to prevent veteran homelessness — might attract homeless veterans to the area. Opposition evaporated as VA representatives of the center worked with neighborhood interests to alleviate their concerns.
The program is based around a wide range of treatment options. Time from entry into the facility to the transition back to the community will range from 60 to 120 days. Eligibility for admission will be reserved for honorably discharged veterans screened through selection at the VA Medical Center in La Jolla.
The facility is the first ever to provide residential care that fills the gap between inpatient hospitalization and outpatient care, during which interim veterans at risk may become homeless. The center can accommodate 6 female and 34 male veterans at a time, each of whom will have a private room accessible by keycard and will share common kitchen and social-room areas.
The VA invested $33 million to transform the former Thomas Jefferson School of Law at 2121 San Diego Avenue, a three-story, 30,000-square-foot building, into a quiet, airy refuge that will facilitate veteran recovery.