Veterans Village of San Diego confronting drug abuse in rehab center

The famed drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, once a national model in addressing veteran homelessness, is now being challenged by widespread drug use, unsafe living conditions, and the harm to vulnerable residents who come to the campus for help.

San Diego County probation officials took unusual steps last month to remove clients from the treatment center after several overdoses. The Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating the death of a student from fentanyl overdose. Other institutions and employees, including the San Diego VA and the county’s Veterans Treatment CourtConcerns have been expressed by a number of people about the quality and standard of care at the hospital. rehab program.

Veterans Village San Diego has provided counseling and employment services for more than 40 year and has been praised by dignitaries as well as presidents for its innovative approach to tackling homelessness and addiction. Stand Down, a multiday, multi-day event that connects homeless veterans and public services, was established by the Veterans Village of San Diego in 1988. The event has been repeated in hundreds of cities and was endorsed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. “60 Minutes”National Public Radio.

Residents and employees have also called on government agencies and public officials to address their growing concerns regarding Veterans Village. Six complaints have been filed against the organization. Two lawsuits were filed last year, and two complaints were sent to the Veterans Affairs inspector general’s office in April.

Inewsource spoke with 44 Veterans Village residents and workers. Almost unanimously, they said they love and support the organization — they continue to believe in its mission and credited the institution with making “miracles” happen — but they are troubled by the conditions at the nonprofit’s flagship 224-bed treatment center on Pacific Highway.

Residents and staff claim Veterans Village has suffered from a decline over the past few decades. The leadership has placed a high priority on filling beds rather than providing high-quality care. They have admitted too many clients during a severe staffing crisis and failed to provide enough oversight to keep campus drug-free. Photos obtained from residents show unsanitary conditions in the mess hall and bathrooms, and the quality of the food — once a hallmark of the program — plummeted last year.

Photo taken by a resident at Veterans Village

A meal was provided to a resident of the Veterans Village San Diego campus in January 2022.

2018 saw big changes when Veterans Village began accepting new residents. Funding for Drug MediCalThis now makes more than twice the VA’s daily treatment costs. It has allowed the rehabcenter Non-veterans are welcome to enrollThey are a growing segment of campus population.

Concerns have been raised that the organization may be losing touch with its core purpose, which is to provide a community and home for veterans in crisis.

As for staffing, a complaint filed with the VA inspector general estimates that more than 55 workers have left the nonprofit — which used to maintain a roster of about 120 employees — over the past 18 months. Many of these workers have not been replaced. There were currently 58. 31 job openings are listed online.

Emails reveal that Veterans Village continued to accept clients despite warnings from the VA staff “service delivery will be negatively affected”The shortage of workers.

Staff members, as well as residents, said they didn’t feel safe at Veterans Village.

Inewsource’s data analysis found that calls to the police station at the rehab center’s address have more than doubled in recent years, from five per month in 2018 to 12 per month in 2022. During this time, reports of violent incidents, mental illness incidents and disturbances increased.

According to a police report, a staff member was caught selling methamphetamine last year and exposing himself in the treatment facility. The staff member fled the building after he was confronted. He was not allowed back.

One resident said that rehabProgram was a “minefield”It is for addicts. Another described it this way: “Club Med”Because of their frequent drug use or as a third resident put: “It’s easier to get heroin here than Advil.”

“It’s open here with drugs,”Kevin Huttman, a former resident, said. “You can get them really easily.”

Clients reported seeing heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl in the treatment center. Others claimed that they were often offered drugs by others in their program. One resident claimed that he found methamphetamine fragments in his room the day he arrived.

Residents have had to struggle to stay sober due to the constant triggers. Inewsource was told that a Veteran Village roommate gave him methamphetamine as a gift. Another client claimed that he was relapsed upon heroin use after his roommate stole heroin from him and brought it into the building during the middle of night.

The VVSD I was taught and what it was supposed be was totally different from what I actually experienced.

Former resident Seth Walters

Veterans Village runs a treatment center. Clients must remain on the grounds unless they are granted a pass to leave.

Seth Walters, a former resident said he was able stay clean by relying on his roommates who were committed and supportive of their sobriety. But he worried about other residents who don’t have that support — who could be “easily manipulated into using the drug that they’re trying to get away from.”

Walters stated that students who use illegal substances on campus are among Walters’ clients “almost prey on”Other residents

“You’re helpless against this addiction, and you’re sitting here and putting it in front of their face,”He said.

Walters is grateful to Veterans Village and the lifelong friendships he has made through the program. But he wishes there was more support for residents who struggle with addiction.

“The VVSD that I was taught (about) and what it was supposed to be was completely different from what I experienced,”He said.

Huttman, a former resident, said that some clients left the treatment program before their housing vouchers were ready. “can’t stand it”Veterans Village. He said that while the nonprofit had many caring staff members it was difficult for him to get the support and assistance he needed because of high turnover.

“What they promised was we would be going to rehab, given the tools to stay sober and clean, and we would get housing,”Huttman said. “Obviously they’re not fulfilling that promise.”

Employees claimed that the shortage of workers was caused by a lack leadership support and concerns about the quality care residents receive. Many employees criticized the work environment. “toxic.”

The day after inewsource and Veterans Village leadership were scheduled to have an interview, the nonprofit’s human resources department emailed a media policy to employees, which stated they could not speak with reporters. The policy was to be signed and date by staff and turned in by them.

“As with any policy here at VVSD, if they are not followed, disciplinary action may be taken, up to and including termination,”The email stated.

Akilah Templeton is the chief executive officer at Veterans Village. She stated that drugs and being under the influence are strictly prohibited at the treatment center. She stated that services have not been affected by the shortage of staff and that residents are receiving high-quality care.

The San Diego VA, county employees in Behavioral Health ServicesThe agencies recently conducted inspections of Veterans Village and found no evidence that Veterans Village was not in compliance with its contracts.

Mike Workman, County spokesperson, stated that Behavioral Health Services is aware that there are concerns about campus drug use and overdoses. However, he noted that these concerns are not new. “are not unique to VVSD in light of the services provided.”

Inspectors discovered ways to make the treatment program work after a recent inspection. “improve their operational oversight,”Workman said.

“We have worked very closely with them to develop a plan to address concerns related to VVSD’s staffing/vacancies, while also identifying opportunities for more thorough documentation and communication protocols,”He concluded.

Meanwhile, the county probation department — a frequent source of referrals to Veterans Village — removed eight residents from the property in May after a death on the campus. Chuck Westerheide, a spokesman for the county probation department, said that the move was made because “we believed it was in the clients’ best interest.”

Westerheide stated that the department no longer sends probationers to Veterans Village and is currently evaluating their remaining clients. “to determine if they need a different level of care.”

Templeton assumed the helm at Veterans Village in August 2020 amid multiple crises, epidemics, and threats facing San Diego and the country. Opioid deaths and overdoses are on the rise in the U.S., while the COVID-19 epidemic continues to impact public health services. The region has a large homeless populationIt is still rising.

The CEO stated that she had been working closely with the San Diego Housing Commission as well as other partners to overcome these challenges.

“I’m sad that there are individuals who don’t agree with our decision to be a better partner in the community,”Templeton stated. “That means housing more homeless veterans. It means providing services to those who have historically been denied access. It means helping the most vulnerable in this community.”

“There are people who do not agree with that, because it’s not always safe,”She continued. “It’s not always pretty. There are risks attached to that. So if I could see anything change, it would be that people would open their hearts and minds to caring for the least of us.”

Accountability

April was a difficult month at Veterans Village.

On April 8, emergency responders arrived at the rehab center’s address to help a man under the influence of crystal meth who was complaining about a fast heart rate.

A week later, police were called to the campus’s address when a man was lying on the ground unconscious next to drug paraphernalia. According to a police investigation, the incident was categorized as an overdose. A second victim was found nearby minutes later. Both survived.

Two days later, Nathanael Robi, a former Navy SEAL was found unresponsive in Veterans Village’s toilet. He was revived by an emergency opioid overdose drug Narcan.

After reports of possible prostitution and narcotics activity, police returned to the scene on April 24. An emergency responder stated that a woman soliciting clients and engaging with drug use was a matter of concern. “CHRONIC PROBLEM TO NARCS.”

Brandon Caldera, a Veteran Village resident, died five days later from a suspected overdose of fentanyl. The DEA’s Overdose Response Team quickly launched an investigation.

A spokesperson for DEA said that the investigation is ongoing and that details could not be provided by them. The task force usually aims to find fentanyl supply source information and gather evidence that can be used in prosecution.

It was four days after Caldera’s death that the county probation department started pulling clients out of the rehab center.

It’s easier to get drugs here than if you’re on the streets. It’s a safe place to use.

Jarrod Brooker was a former resident

Veterans Village was advised by a VA staffer that one potential client might be not a good fit. rehab center, “given concerns with that program,”An email shows. The veteran was admitted for substance abuse and was trying to reconnect with community services upon their release.

Jarrod Brooker, a former resident of the campus, said that he understood why clients were being moved away from it.

“I don’t blame them,”He said. “These guys are trying to save their lives.”

In December, the ex-Navy aircraft mechanic sent an email warning a Veterans Village director that the program was threatening its residents’ well-being.

“​​It’s been my experience that this is a life or death situation and we are being hung out to dry,”Brooker wrote.

Jarrod Brooker, a former client at Veterans Village of San Diego, is shown at his home in San Diego, May 27, 2022.

Zoë Meyers / inewsource

Jarrod Brooker is shown at his San Diego home on May 27, 2022.

“There’s drug use and drug dealing on this campus for 22 hours a day,”He continued, “there was no accountability, no check up and no structure for the clients here trying to help themselves or at least thought they would at one point. Structure is what VVSD had built its reputation on for many years.”

Brooker, who lived at Veterans Village between June 2021 and January 2022 said that he had very little contact with staff and relied solely on support groups outside the program. Brooker considers himself an advocate, trying to help other veterans through his concerns.

“It’s easier to get drugs here than if you’re on the streets,”Brooker stated. “It’s a safe place to use.”

Overdoses and deaths are increasing in and out of drug treatment programs. This is due to the opioid crisis and the dangers of fentanyl.

33 people died in San Diego County from fentanyl poisoning in 2016. The region was home to 817 fentanyl-related deaths last year. However, the final numbers have yet to be released.

Fentanyl overdose deaths rising in San Diego County

According to the California Department of Health Care Services there were 63 deaths in licensed alcohol and drug treatment programs during the 2021 fiscal year at 1,727 facilities. None of those deaths — which include overdoses, natural deaths and those from other causes — occurred at Veterans Village.

Three deaths occurred at Veterans Village in this year. The first was from natural causes, and the second is still under review by the county medical examiner’s office.

Caldera, a suspected case of fentanyl-overdose, was the third.

If I went through that program now, there’s no way I would’ve made it. That’s what worries me.

Steve Duff, ex-resident and former employee

Veterans Village is provided with a treatment license by the health care department. The department said that there were six complaints against Veterans Village, but didn’t provide any details.

Veterans Village and other programs are required to be maintained by federal and state regulations. rehabFor the safety of residents as well as staff, centers are free from drugs or alcohol.

Treatment programs are not guaranteed to be flawless. As with all things, treatment programs are not perfect. rehabVeterans Village staff said that there have been always been clients who relapse and clients who bring in substances to the facility.

Staff claim that there is a significant difference in the current situation. It is because it is difficult to conduct the necessary monitoring and room searches to maintain campus cleanliness.

“Because of the staffing, one of the big things is you end up so many times just running around, putting out fires all day,”Steve Duff worked for Veterans Village for two-years as an office monitor, handling drug testing and room checks. He quit his job in August.

“I think it just gets so overwhelming, you can’t hold people as accountable as you did before,”He said.

Duff, a Veteran Village graduate in 2018, said that his life was a success. “complete miracle”Because of the nonprofit. The program provided clean clothes, legal support, and a job to enable him to live a sober existence.

But the program has “completely changed”He said that he has not spoken to Duff since then. Duff became an employee in 1994. Violence and drugs were common on campus at that time. “the norm.”

“If I went through that program now, there’s no way I would’ve made it,”He said. “That’s what worries me.”

Residents and staff said they have asked supervisors to bring in drug dogs and conduct impromptu campuswide searches — efforts that Veterans Village used to take when drugs were suspected at the facility — but those didn’t happen.

The Veterans Village of San Diego campus is shown on June 3, 2022.

Zoë Meyers / inewsource

The Veterans Village of San Diego campus can be seen on June 3, 2022.

John Laidlaw, Veterans Village’s chief operating officer, said the nonprofit does not remove people from the rehabProgram without proving that a rule violation occurred, which ensures fairness for residents. He stated that staff conduct bed checks and monitor campus. Leadership is also discussing best practices for drug dogs.

“We are monitoring absolutely the best that we can,”Laidlaw stated.

Templeton, the CEO of the nonprofit, stated that the organization had adopted harm reduction techniques like offering Medication-assisted TreatmentThe risk of overdose is reduced by taking narcotics, which has been proven to be effective. Narcan, a nasal spray that helps reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, has been placed in residents’ bedrooms.

Templeton also questioned if the firsthand accounts of drugs on campus shared with inewsource were true.

“That may not be fact,”She said. “Those sound like very extreme examples, and certainly if those types of situations were brought to our attention, is it not reasonable to assume that we would address that?”

A continuum of care

Inewsource compared the results of one resident’s drug tests before and after they joined Inewsource rehabVeterans Village. Within two weeks of enrollment, the resident was positive for methamphetamine and had their urine tested positive.

The client’s fentanyl levels were even higher when they took a third test two weeks after that.

The results of both tests taken in the resident’s first month at Veterans Village show that norfentanyl — the substance the body breaks fentanyl down into — was listed as greater than 500 ng/milliliter, the highest range the test could detect.

“In a residential program, the levels in their system should be dropping over time because people aren’t supposed to be using in the program,”Scott Silverman, the CEO/founder of Confidential RecoveryThe Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program in San Diego. “The environment is controlled.”

Veterans Village leadership stated that 22% of residents tested positive in an April point-in time count.

A spokesperson for the county confirmed the accuracy of the rate, which was derived from a sample population of residents.

Experts said point-in-time counts didn’t provide clear information on the extent of drug use in a rehabBecause substances can stay in the body for up to a week after being used, it is important to have a program. Clients who are under the influence may find ways to submit clean samples. This can lead to undercounts.

“Just Google how to beat a (drug) test and a ton of advice will pop up,”Silverman stated.

Scott Silverman, the CEO and founder of Confidential Recovery, is shown in this undated photo.

Scott Silverman

This undated photo shows Scott Silverman, founder and CEO of Confidential Recovery.

Silverman, who has a history of recovering from his own addiction to drugs, and alcohol, Has spent the last 35 yearsHelping individuals and families to address substance abuse. In honor his efforts, San Diego designated February 19 as Scott Silverman day.

The substance use expert said drugs could interfere with a treatment program’s services.

“How do you run a residential treatment program when there are people using drugs while going through the program?”Silverman stated. “You can’t. They contaminate the milieu for everyone else. How could you move the curriculum forward?”

These programs are meant to teach people coping skills and help them practice new behaviors that will reduce the likelihood of relapse. They are one type of program that is offered in a “continuum of care”People who are addicted.

This continuum includes both inpatient programs at hospitals that serve the most high-needs clients, and outpatient programs that allow people who live at home to receive regular counseling.

Each program has its own expectations and requirements.

Veterans Village and other residential treatment centers have been known to release clients who relapse. Researchers and government agencies have stopped using this approach in recent years. They recognize that relapses can be common and that people who experience them still need support.

veterans t-shirt.jpeg

Zoë Meyers / inewsource

Jack Lyons, May 22, 2022, Jack Lyons shows off old T-shirts that he wore during his years of service with Veterans Village San Diego.

Veterans Village added a new feature, called “The Village” five years ago. “Back to Basics,”Residents who had previously relapsed could continue treatment. However, residents who used drugs on campus were still removed from the program.

“I think using on the campus is usually a hard stop,”Carla Marienfeld is a psychiatrist at UC San Diego, who studies best practices for substance abuse treatment.

“That would be a reason that that person might not be able to continue in treatment,”She continued, “not because of their own relapse, but because their use is significantly impacting the recovery of other people.”

But, Marienfeld said, that doesn’t mean they should be removed from all forms of treatment.

“It just may mean that they might do better or it might be more appropriate for them to have individual treatment or have other types of treatment,”She said.

The program director for veterans at Veterans Village is rehabThe center had the power to remove anyone who was a safety concern.

Shellie bowman, who was the Veterans Village’s former program director, stated that she lost that ability last year due to her leadership. She was no longer able to discharge residents for rule violations without getting approval from higher-ups who don’t work directly with clients, she said.

Templeton, the CEO, stated that management was considering residents who are using drugs or under the influence on campus.

“Every situation is different,”Templeton said. “Some people are motivated to keep trying. Some people are not. We have to balance health and safety with a desire to see each individual succeed.”

Adjustments

As a response to Concerns about its finances and vacancy rateIn 2018, Veterans Village began accepting Drug Medi-Cal funding. This allowed Veterans Village to accept Drug Medi-Cal funding in 2018. rehab center’s population.

Veterans Village almost doubled the number Drug Medi-Cal beds last year amid a staff shortage. Despite its growing prominence at Veterans Village, the program is not mentioned on the nonprofit’s For more information, visit the following webpage rehabCenterIt is not possible to enroll nonveterans.

As Drug Medi-Cal admissions grew, so did the staff.

We could howl to each other until our faces were purple, but nothing would change.

Brittany Phillips Hunt

Brittany Phillips Hunt, a former associate clinician who provided mental health services to Drug Medi-Cal residents, said she was told that she would never have more than 12 clients at once, but she regularly had more than 15 assigned to her — and at one point she was responsible for as many as 22 residents.

“I made it clear from the very beginning that I needed to be doing therapy in this position, and it was quickly evident that it’s just not possible,”Phillips Hunt said.

Phillips Hunt said residents could only meet Phillips Hunt one time per three weeks due to the lengthy paperwork she had to complete for Drug Medi-Cal. That time was used to conduct required assessments, not therapy.

Phillips Hunt said she offered regular group sessions to residents, but, without one-on-one therapy, she believed that her clients weren’t getting the support they needed. She was not able to get the support she needed when she complained to her supervisors.

“We could howl to the moon until we were purple in the face and nothing would get done,”Phillips Hunt quit after four months of work, he said.

Veterans Village’s work has been centered on the role of the Clinicians. They provide a safe environment for residents to discuss their addiction and trauma. They also play an important role at Drug Medi-Cal treatment centres.

Veterans Village’s case managers, therapists, and other employees have managed to meet their obligations despite a severe staffing shortage. The nonprofit also admits clients with more severe mental and physical health needs.

Police calls rise at rehabCenter

Kurt Phillips is a former resident who said he was diagnosed in 2007 with schizoaffective and spent seven years in a mental facility. However, Veterans Village’s staff caseloads were so high, Phillips said he was able to see his therapist only about once every six months.

“He was very, very dedicated, but he was also very, very overworked,”Phillips said that the staffing shortage was a problem. “major problem.”

Many social service providers face high turnoverThis is a problem that has been exacerbated due to low pay and burnout as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am not sure what the answer is in the short term, but, in the long term, addiction needs to be treated as a public health issue, rather than a criminal one, and (substance use) counselors need to be paid higher wages, so that we keep people doing this hard work,”Wendy Wiehl is the director of the Alcohol and Other Drug Studies Program at San Diego City College.

“And treatment facilities need to make sure their employees are practicing self-care to avoid compassion fatigue and job burnout,”She said.

Marienfeld from UC San Diego said that treatment programs can adapt to staffing difficulties and ensure quality care. This could include reducing enrollments or cutting back on programming.

“We do our best to maximize things with what we have,”She said.

In April, the VA asked Veterans Village to start an admissions waitlist so case managers wouldn’t have to take on more clients, but the nonprofit declined.

“Service delivery will be negatively affected by going over the client case manager ratio,”A VA employee wrote.

David Skonezny, the nonprofit’s senior director of transitional housing, disagreed.

“We will need to stretch the capacity out of our (case managers) in order to fiscally support the addition of new staff within the program,”He wrote. “I have done a terrific job directing this aspect of the work … and I would ask for some latitude to direct our staff in the midst of caring for our veterans, which we are clearly doing.”

vvsdcampus-3.jpeg

Zoë Meyers / inewsource

The Veterans Village of San Diego campus can be seen on June 3, 2022.

Veterans Village leadership stated that they had adjusted enrollment to address the staffing shortage. The VA has not ordered an admissions freeze.

According to records, the nonprofit requested that the San Diego Housing Commission permanently remove 40 beds from the rehabProgram last year “to ensure quality care and positive outcomes for program participants.”The request was accepted by the commission.

Alyce Fernebok was the chairperson of the Veterans Village Board of Directors. She said that the nonprofit is still operating within the required staffing levels. She stated that the organization has worked hard to keep enrollment up because empty beds mean missed opportunities to help those in need.

“We are looking for opportunities to serve,”She said.

Fernebok, a former Marine, said a board member recently told her about drug use on the campus, but she wasn’t able to track down where the complaints originated.

“Obviously, when it was brought up to me, it’s a concern of mine, too,”She said.

Inewsource staff and residents told us that it has been difficult to connect people with housing or employment services due to the absence of case managers. Clients sometimes wait months to get simple tasks completed.

One employee quit and she sent an email to management stating that she was leaving. “gravely concerned about the executive team’s prioritization of numbers over people,”She also added that she had “seen the quality of the treatment at (the veterans rehab center) experience a noticeable decline due to these poorly set priorities.”

The employee claimed that she had “personally witnessed the pressure to increase numbers affecting staff morale, and firmly believe that this pressure has been the main contributing factor in the increased number of resignations VVSD has experienced.”

Two former employees filed lawsuits last year against Veterans Village. One of the lawsuits, which is ongoing, accused Veterans Village of depriving workers of overtime pay. The other involved a former vice president who claimed she was fired after asking for family leave. This case was sent to arbitration, outside of the court system, which was dismissed.

Veterans Village CEO, said she couldn’t comment about the lawsuits. She added that “VVSD does not terminate people for requesting leave.”

In April, a former employee and a current resident filed complaints to the VA Office of the Inspector General regarding conditions at the facility. rehab facility. The office did not confirm that the complaints were under investigation.

“Since the fall of 2020, the quality of the treatment provided to veterans at the agency has deteriorated to the point that it is a dangerous environment for residents and staff,”One of the complaints is.

“The VA needs to stop sending veterans to VVSD,”It says.

Quality of care and quality of life

Veterans Village employees and residents have complained that they are not prepared to address the complex needs of their residents.

According to the inspector general’s complaint from April, the VA-funded rehabSince August, there had been no nurse at the program. The nonprofit’s VA grant states it should have a nurse for nearly 28 hours per week.

The treatment center is not licensed as a medical facility — meaning that it doesn’t offer a full slate of medical services to residents — but a nurse can help with medications, education, infection control and basic health needs.

Danelle Harrington, Veterans Village’s warehouse donations coordinator, stated that the nurse was vital for the well being of the residents.

“I don’t think they could run a place without having a nurse,”She said.

Harrington, who was previously an intake coordinator, said that she observed the treatment center enroll patients with more complex medical histories.

If I was there right now, do I think I would’ve made it through? No, I think I’d probably have some heroin problem now.

Danelle Harrington

Harrington, a former Navy firefighter, began working at the center in 2018, one year after she graduated. She shared that she had a life-changing experience as resident, which enabled her to reconnect to her children and address her alcohol abuse. She wanted to share that experience with others.

“It was a joy to come to work,”Harrington stated. “I would come to work and know that God was there with me. It was a purpose and a reason for me to be there.”

Harrington explained that residents began to come to her for help because their case managers and therapists were too busy and that drug abuse was a growing problem.

Harrington stated that one of her clients offered to help her in any way he could, as he was afraid he would relapse if the warehouse was too long.

“If I was there right now, do I think I would’ve made it through?”She said. “No, I think I’d probably have some heroin problem now.”

To help fill the gaps left by the staffing shortage, employees said they’d been asked to fulfill new responsibilities that they’re not equipped to handle.

Turquoise teagle was hired in February to be an outreach coordinator. But she claimed she was quickly given other tasks, such as helping with drug testing and performing intakes for new residents. She was expected to train herself, she said, and wasn’t given clear guidance on how to comply with grants or health privacy laws.

Turquoise Teagle, a former employee at Veterans Village of San Diego, is shown on Feb. 13, 2021, in her prior role working at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley.

Zoë Meyers / inewsource

Turquoise Teagle is shown as a former employee of Veterans Village in San Diego. She was previously employed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley, on February 13, 2021.

“It started to become a snowball, and I was like an avalanche was gonna happen,” Teagle said. “And I didn’t want to be there when it happened.”

Teagle said that substance use was common on campus, and she witnessed clients leave the program as the environment was affecting their chances of sobriety. The program also had residents who were under the influence, Teagle said. They sometimes acted out aggressively and added an extra layer of risk to staff and clients.

According to records and interviews, some staff fear coming to work due to feeling unsafe. At least one person called out sick in order to avoid being threatened and threatened by residents. Hate speech became a regular problem. And safety measures like adding locks to office doors and installing panic buttons weren’t taken when employees asked.

According to a police file, in May, a resident who was under the influence methamphetamine assaulted three staff members and left one security guard bleeding from his face.

Teagle, who witnessed and was present at the attack, stated that she “absolutely”Felt unsafe on the campus and was concerned about the safety of the residents.

Teagle quit in May after three months of work.

“I truly wanted to do something that made me sleep better and made me feel better inside,”Teagle, a former Navy member, said this.

“My fear is that I’m doing something wrong,”She added.

Residents and staff said they wanted to see Veterans Village succeed, and they hope leadership will take steps to help clients thrive — steps like providing proper training, reducing admissions, supervising the campus more closely and listening to feedback from the veterans community.

“If they would just sound the cry, there would be people coming to the rescue, but you gotta ask for help or think that you need help,”Ron Stark, president and co-chair of San Diego Veterans Coalition, said: One VA Community Advocacy Board.

Stark said Veterans Village gave him his first job after leaving the Navy, and, without that opportunity, he probably wouldn’t have ended up where he is today. Stark said he is concerned by the concerns raised about the nonprofit and wants to do everything he can to help.

“I just don’t want it to crumble, because who loses, you know?”Stark said.

“The veterans, who are they gonna lean to? There’s not another VVSD here.”

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