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First of 3 L.A.-area care facilities for veterans to open

November 20, 2009 |  6:00 am

The first of three new long-term care facilities for veterans in California will open today in Lancaster, filling what officials say is a pressing need for basic care and assistance for military veterans.

The other facilities will open next month in Ventura and West next year in Los Angeles.

The William J. “Pete” Knight Veterans Home of California in Lancaster, which was built by the state Department of Veterans Affairs, will offer long-term care, assistance with daily activities and provide a place for veterans to socialize.

“It’s incredibly important because veterans need this help,” said Thomas Craft, a retired Navy captain and chairman of the nonprofit Lancaster Veterans Home Citizens' Committee, which pushed for the facility to be established in the Antelope Valley.

“They realize they need help, but they don’t want to go away from their families,”  he said.

The Lancaster home had been a vision of veterans since the mid-1990s, when the late-state Sen. William J. "Pete" Knight, a retired Air Force colonel — for whom the Lancaster facility is named — helped shape legislation to fund California’s veterans homes.

In 1999, Lancaster donated 22 acres to the state Department of Veterans Affairs in hopes that a 400-bed facility would be built. The project was subsequently downsized to 60 beds and an adult day health center.

—Ann M. Simmons