HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – A groundbreaking bill has passed the Massachusetts Senate, allowing the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home project to take a big step forward.
Governor Charlie Baker’s approval is all that’s left to ensure a new Holyoke Soldiers’ Home gets built.
The state Senate Thursday unanimously approved legislation, authorizing $400 million in bonds for the design and construction of a new Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke. Leading the charge was Westfield State Senator and veteran himself, John Velis.
22News got the chance to speak with Senator Velis about the project on Friday and he said he was overcome with joy to see the bill make it this far, “At the end of the day, this was all about the veterans, the veterans families and ensuring that in the future we have a place that they can call home in western Massachusetts.”
The existing home was built in 1952 with many triple and quadruple bedrooms. That proved to be a serious problem last year, when COVID-19 quickly spread throughout the home, resulting in the deaths of over 70 veterans.
The new facility will feature a small homes concept where residents will have more independence and they won’t be forced to live with four or five other veterans like they were when the outbreak first hit. The new Holyoke Soldiers’ Home will also feature state of the art equipment to address the needs to veterans in the future, like those with mental health issues, substance disorders and other medical conditions.
John Paradis of the Holyoke Soldiers Home Coalition told 22News, “To really make a statement to the family members who suffered so much this past year to say we are going to do it right. We will move forward as a community and make sure this never happens again.”
The $400 million bond authorization for the new facility is eligible to receive up to 65 percent in federal reimbursement through the VA State Home Construction Grant Program.
The bill now goes to Gov. Baker’s desk for approval.