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Breathing new life into a home full of memories with the Tomah VA

La Crosse, Wis. (WXOW) – On Thursday, the La Crosse City Council approved the Tomah VA Medical Center’s request for a conditional use permit to establish a transitional home for veterans in town.

That opportunity made possible by the donation of an entire house by La Crosse residents, Barb and Dave Erickson.

The home on Farnam Street in La Crosse forever represents something special to the Ericksons.

“It, of course, was built for our son Chad,” Barb Erickson, owner of the donated home, continues, “He had a severe brain injury so we needed a home that was wheelchair accessible, a home that was adapted.”

A situation that lead to the homes ample living space. Space the family didn’t fully utilize after Chad’s passing in 1995.

“It was time that the house served it’s purpose again. I guess we needed healing time to know that it was okay to leave the house, to leave Chad’s house,” Erickson adds.

While Erickson says donating their home to a cause so close to their heart helps their recovery, it also helps veterans. Tomah VA officials say the chance to live in a home instead of a hospital campus can be vital. 

“It is real,” Director of the Tomah VA Victoria Brahm elaborates, “So the veterans will be actually experiencing a non-institutional place to live. Which makes the socialization transition even faster.”

They’ll call it the McHilbur Home, helping veterans transition back into the community in honor of service-members in the Erickson family. The title combines the names of three people in their family that served.

“They’ll get just six to eight more months of guidance. They’ll learn to do more budgeting, what it’s like to take care of a home,” Erickson describes.

The council’s approval means the home will be a reality. Work still needs to be done before veterans move in though.

“So attorneys will have to meet and work it out with the city, with the Ericksons those types of things. We also will need to do some minor construction improvements in terms of meeting the standards for the federal government,” Brahm concludes.

Still a few months to go before veterans reside in the McHilbur Home, according to Brahm.

Conditional use permits allow cities to consider special uses of land not typically allowed by zoning districts. The City of La Crosse will readdress that permit next year.

Peter Lenz

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