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Some Lincoln veterans recovering from alcohol and drug abuse believe they will lose a valuable part of their recovery when an independent halfway house closes Wednesday for lack of funding.

The Promise House was a pilot program funded through grants from Veterans Affairs' Innovation Program and Health and Human Services, but those funds have run out and are not being renewed.

Linda Twomey, mental health program coordinator for VA Nebraska-Western Iowa, said the VA partnered with the Promise House in 2008 when there were limited resources for recovering veterans in Lincoln.

Since then, the VA has started new programs with more than 100 beds for in-house treatment, Twomey said.

"We've had tremendous growth and new programs (for recovering veterans)," Twomey said. "We funneled a lot of resources into three programs for emergency, transitional and permanent living situations in Lincoln."

But some Promise House supporters say the VA care doesn't offer the holistic approach the halfway house offered.

The grant writer planned it as a holistic, healing place to recover. Its goal was to address issues including vocational, mental, physical rehabilitation and addiction problems.

It has been veterans helping veterans learning to deal with a new life, said Don Cramer, president of Operation Veterans Encouraging Recovery, an alumni group of recovering veterans.

"There's still a great need for this. We have a lot of guys coming back from war. They cover up their PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) with drugs and alcohol," Cramer said. "Here they can get a structured living situation and lean on each other -- like a family pulling each other away from that stuff -- and get their life back on track."

The Promise House, near 17th and Garfield streets, houses nine veterans in recovery, with more on the waiting list. They live at the house under supervision and are bused to treatment at the VA hospital during the day, house Manager Steve Mueller said.

In 2009, the VA cut back funds, giving only $18,000 of the $30,000 annual budget for the home, but a Health and Human Services grant gave $10,000 to keep the home open. In 2010, VA cut its funds completely but HHS gave another $35,000. Now, both agencies have cut funding.

Gary DeMassi, who partly owns the home and helps run the program, said he was disappointed to hear about the funding and said he'd let those vets live there for free until they can get back on their feet.

So far, 75 vets have graduated from the house in three years. The residents range from 20-year-olds fresh out of Iraq and Afghanistan to older men who served in Korea.

Now, the alumni group wants to fill the void left by the Promise House.

They want to buy a home and run a transitional living house of their own as a non-profit, but Cramer said they don't want to rely on government funding.

"We don't want to depend on government grants or government financing that could fall through," Cramer said. "What the government gives us ... they can take away."

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Reach Jordan Pascale at 402-473-7120 or jpascale@journalstar.com.

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