On Friday, October 5, several former and current residents of the Home of the Brave, a residence for homeless veterans located on Sharp’s Road in Milford, expressed concerns over the treatment of some of those living in the home. The veterans met with Raymond “Big Ray” Perry, a Volunteer Ombudsman for the Division of Veteran’s Affairs, and the Executive Director of Amen Ministry in Oak Orchard, which also serves homeless veterans.
According to the veterans, the Interim Executive Director, Linda Boone, who took over the shelter in July 2012 after the departure of David Stroud, creates an atmosphere of intimidation, often belittles the veterans and has ordered physical donations that do not meet her standards discarded rather than donated to other agencies that may be able to use them. One of the veterans, Harry Robinson, who spoke out against Boone on a local radio station, found himself evicted from the home the day after his appearance on the show and given three days to vacate the premises.
One complaint the veterans had was that Ms. Boone had restricted the hours that the men could use the kitchen in the home. During Mr. Stroud’s time at the home, the kitchen was open from 6 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. to allow the veteran’s flexibility since the kitchen is a residential-style kitchen with limited space. Ms. Boone implemented a policy that restricted kitchen use to only two hours per meal, and these meals were at set hours of the day. The pantry is locked during times when the kitchen is not open.
On Friday, October 5, the American Legion Post No. 2 in Dover sponsored the annual Delaware Veteran’s Stand Down, an event that began in San Diego in the late 1960’s. The program provides veterans with information on housing, social services and other benefits, including services such as haircuts, dental work, job leads and child support counseling. The event is open to all veterans, not just the homeless, but offers many resources to those that have served in the military.
According to the veterans who met with Perry, residents of the Home of the Brave were forbidden from attending the event. In fact, one veteran who did attend the Stand Down was concerned that when he returned to the home after speaking with Perry, he could face eviction much like Robertson.
Robertson filed several grievances against Boone on September 18, according to the policy set forth by the Board of Directors. When no action was taken regarding these grievances, he contacted the radio station to express his concerns with the management of the home.
“I want to make it clear that I am not slandering the Home of the Brave, Les Stephenson, the residents or the staff,” Robertson said. “I just feel as if Linda Boone and the board have killed the morale and spirits of the veterans who live in the home with arbitrary rules and the sudden lack of services being provided. My only goal is to see a new director in the home who has more compassion and understanding for homeless veterans.”
Boone, who began her veteran’s advocacy in 1968 when she joined the American Legion in Oregon with her first husband, a Vietnam veteran, refutes the charges of the veterans. According to Boone, Robertson was discharged from the home for not following the rules, which included speaking out publicly on the radio against the home. When asked what rules he violated, she indicated that he was disrespectful to staff. However, when given information from the grievances Robertson filed which indicated he was actually an advocate for the residents and staff, Boone disagreed.
“It is not his job to speak for other residents or the staff,” Boone stated. “It is Mr. Robertson’s job to work his plan.” Boone continued that the veterans in the home were a dysfunctional population, and that many actually prefer being homeless rather than following the rules. Therefore, it is not unusual to find those that prefer to walk away from the program rather than submit to regulations. She considered Robertson to be “stuck in his ways and unwilling to accept change.”
“This is our house, not theirs,” Boone stated when asked about the new limits on kitchen hours. “This is a program, not a hotel, and we must impose restrictions. The previous hours of 6 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. were excessive.” She denies belittling veterans, pointing out that she has been a veteran’s advocate for most of her adult life, and spent several years working at the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans in Washington DC. Boone is married to Antonio Davila, the Director of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs.
“The board had made a motion to close this place down,” Boone stated. “I agreed to step in and get it back in order. I took this job when no one else wanted to do it.”
Boone does admit that she discouraged the residents from attending the Stand Down in Dover as she felt that services offered there were very similar to what was already offered at Home of the Brave, and because there was a conflicting event scheduled that same day. The residents participated in a Nature Day at Abbott’s Mill and Killen’s Pond. In addition, Ms. Boone felt that since the Stand Down was available to all veterans and not just homeless, there would be little benefit to those in Home of the Brave.
Robertson, who attended the Stand Down disagrees, as he actually had a tooth extracted and received a free haircut at the event.
Several of the grievances filed by Mr. Robertson indicated that the board approved the items in question. Boone stated she could provide that documentation, however none was provided.
“Mr. Robertson did not follow the grievance policy,” Ms. Boone stated. “He is required to have a conversation with the staff prior to filing a written grievance and he did not do that.” However, a review of Home of the Brave’s grievance policy shows no written requirement that residents must have a verbal conversation about an issue before submitting a written grievance.
The Home of the Brave Board of Directors, in a statement released through Boone, stated that they fully support her discharge of Robertson from the program, based on his violation of General Behavior Rules, which require appropriate behavior. In addition, the board statement indicated that Robertson also failed to follow his case management plan. The board had no comment regarding other allegations made by the veterans.