Veterans press for opening of Fresno home

FRESNO, Calif.

"We're here to tell these people, to tell the Governor to go straight to hell if he doesn't open this home."

A crowd of around two hundred lead by veterans advocate Charlie Waters jammed a public hearing. Their message was to get the home open, so it can serve the veterans who need it.

Water said: "We want it open now. We want it open at the end of April when it's finished."

Construction on the 3 hundred thousand square foot Veterans home, located in Southeast Fresno, is expected to be finished within a couple of months.

But Peter Gravett, the head of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, made it clear, there's little hope the place will open this year.

"At this point in time we do not have an opening for the home. that's budget driven and right now in the current budget it's not in the budget."

This nearly 150 million dollar facility will eventually house about 300 veterans. The opening of another Veterans Home in Redding is also being stalled because of the state's budget crisis.

Legislators, both Republican and Democrat are pushing Governor Brown to somehow find the money.

Republican Assembly Member Linda Halderman told the crowd:"The money is there. It simply needs to be allocated for you."

While delaying the opening for two years would save the state more than $ 20 million the folks here say too many aging veterans need the home now and it's too important to put off. Gravett agreed:

"My challenge as secretary is to determine how I can get this home opened and that's my number one priority right now."

Gravett said it's possible the state's budget picture could change by July. However, right now the state is only budgeting about $2 million to keep the Veterans home in Fresno in a mothballed state, with a small team of caretakers in place until it can be opened.

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