On Wednesday, September 26, Home of the Brave welcomed Senator Chris Coons, answering his questions about the program and taking him on a tour of the facilities at their Sharp’s Road center for homeless veterans. Senator Coons learned the mission of the center, where veterans receive assistance to transition out of homelessness, and discussed issues facing the program at the federal level. The center is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year.
Home of the Brave began in 1992 as the vision of eight Vietnam combat veterans, who grew concerned about the growing number of veterans becoming homeless and the lack of resources available to help them. Each of the original eight members contributed $1 to start an account earmarked to purchase a home for homeless vets. Through fundraising efforts, the first Home of the Brave opened in 1994 with four beds, and the current 15-bed farmhouse opened in 1996. The larger facility was made possible with a grant provided by the Veteran’s Administration.
Senator Coons met with Linda Boone, Executive Director of the facility, as well as David Markowitz, Vice-Chairman of the board and board members Bob Corsa and Les Stephens. Stephens is also one of the original eight founders of the facility.
“The majority of our residents are placed here due to a domestic situation, such as divorce, and many arrive with zero or little income,” Boone explained to Senator Coons. “Unlike those returning after the Vietnam era, very few have substance abuse problems, but the majority of them are over age 50, making it difficult to place them in jobs.”
Corsa explained that it is difficult to expect someone in their sixties that they must go to school to learn new skills. “Many of these guys have been homeless for a while, and as you can imagine, some of the older vets are resistant to change,” he told the Congressman. Home of the Brave strives to retrain the veterans housed in the shelter and place them in permanent employment positions.
One of the missions of Home of the Brave is to open a women and children’s shelter in the area. Currently, there are very few shelters for homeless female veterans, many of whom also have small children. Home of the Brave has located a home on Griffith’s Lake Road, and secured a mortgage, but the home has some structural problems that must be addressed before settlement, which was scheduled for late September. The organization has approached JP Morgan regarding a grant to help them complete the renovations and purchase the home, which would house six women veterans with children, providing them similar services offered at the Sharp’s Road shelter.
One issue facing the organization is large cuts in federal funding, despite the federal government’s mission to end veteran homelessness by 2015. Cuts in funding at the federal level, however, have stalled expansion of existing veterans homes and the center learned that special needs grants for women and children ended in 2012, and may not be funded in 2013.
“I am not sure how we are going to end veteran homelessness without expanding existing programs,” Senator Coons stated. He promised to look into the funding matter, and offered to provide any assistance he could to promote the newly developed action plan for Home of the Brave.
“Culturally, we have a much more welcoming attitude toward returning veterans than we did after the Vietnam War, with parades and welcome celebrations for returning soldiers almost daily,” Senator Coons explained. “The reality is that we need to be sure we are offering our veterans what they need to survive when they return from serving our country.”
Home of the Brave accepts monetary donations to support the program, as well as donations of gift cards, rolls of stamps, good condition household items, twin bed linens, towels, pillows, and non-perishable food items. Many of the items donated are given to veterans as they transition from the shelter to permanent housing in order to give them a fresh start.