Pioneers' homes are the cheapest choice for vets

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2003

ANCHORAGE - A report commissioned by the Legislature says the most economical means of housing Alaska's elderly veterans would be in the state pioneers' and veterans' homes.

The option, however, could make it harder for nonveterans to get into the state-run facilities for older Alaskans, most of whom need assisted-living or nursing care.

Renovating the existing pioneers' home in Palmer to meet federal housing standards would cost $1.4 million. Upgrading the homes in Fairbanks and Anchorage would cost $5.3 million. A third alternative, building a 60-bed, stand-alone vets' home in Anchorage, would cost $9.4 million.

The state is facing a general fund budget shortfall of about $400 million this year. State Budget Director Cheryl Frasca said costs do not rule out a stand-alone home.

"The numbers won't drive a decision. It won't disqualify it. But it doesn't help," Frasca said.

State political leaders have been debating how to house Alaska's elderly veterans for years. Alaska has more than 70,000 veterans, the second-highest number per capita in the nation. Only Alaska and Hawaii do not have a dedicated home for veterans.

Last year, Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles pushed a proposal to house veterans in the pioneers' homes, which were renamed the pioneers' and veterans' homes.

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