HOB Women’s Shelter Breaks Ground

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Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 10.22.26 AMBy Terry Rogers

On Wednesday, October 28, Home of the Brave, a shelter for homeless veterans, broke ground at their Sharps Road location for a new women’s shelter that will be built next door to the current shelter. Home of the Brave currently operates a female veteran’s shelter at 9 Causey Avenue in Milford, but Jessica Finan, Executive Director for Home of the Brave, says that the organization knew the shelter at that location was temporary.

“We have been renting the building for a about a year and a half,” Ms. Finan said. “We created the shelter for female veterans and their children as a pilot to see if there was truly a need. What we have learned is that there is definitely a need, but renting was not fiscally responsible. Therefore, we decided to build and began searching for a builder.” Ms. Finan said that they chose Beracah Homes because they could meet all of the needs of the new shelter at the price they could afford.

The shelter, which will have space for eight women and children, will have four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. Ms. Finan says that the current location does not have private bathrooms which can be a challenge when dealing with women and children. When the new building is completed, Home of the Brave will vacate the downtown Milford location. Ms. Finan said that they have informed the landlord and that the house they are currently using is being placed on the market. The landlord has agreed to allow Home of the Brave to occupy the building with a month-to-month lease.

“Today, we will take a great step in providing services for homeless female veterans,” said Beth McGinn, Chairman of the Board for Home of the Brave. “A few years ago, we set a goal to create a shelter for women and their children in Milford. It has not been an easy path and we have met obstacles along the way. But, we had hopes and dreams for the women who had served our country, and we were not willing to give that up. This is just the first step in providing assistance to veterans who are in need.”

There have been several obstacles to the creation of a shelter for female veterans. In 2013, the organization purchased a foreclosed property on Griffith Lake Road in Milford where they intended to open a women’s shelter. However, there was significant opposition from neighbors who felt the location was not suitable for a homeless shelter. In addition, the Sussex County Board of Adjustment only approved a zoning change for the home for two years rather than the normal five years, causing some investors to hesitate in supporting the project. Neighbors felt that the women in the shelter would be better served in a location closer to infrastructure.

In late 2013, Home of the Brave negotiated a rental agreement with Roger Wood, Director of God’s Way who operated a transitional shelter at the Causey Avenue home. He indicated that his organization was closing the transitional shelter and offered to lease the facility to Home of the Brave. The lease was signed in November 2013 and the shelter opened in February 2014.

There will be no interaction between the men and women at the two shelters. Men will be forbidden from entering the female shelter and women will be forbidden from entering the male shelter. However, Ms. Finan said that being able to walk between the two houses rather than driving from one location to another will make her job and the duties of staff much easier.

Home of the Brave began in 1992 as the vision of eight Vietnam veterans who were growing concerned about the number of homeless veterans in the area and the lack of resources for them. Each of the original members donated $1 to start an account earmarked to purchase a home for homeless veterans. Through fundraising efforts, the original founders raised enough money to purchase an old farmhouse on Sharps Road in 1994 with four beds and became a 15-bed facility in 1996 thanks to a grant provided by the Veteran’s Administration.

The mission of the Home of the Brave has always been to reduce homelessness among our military veteran population. They provide transitional housing, food and security to address a homeless veteran’s immediate needs. In addition, they provide assistance with employment, counseling services, access to healthcare, transportation and work with the veteran to transition them into affordable housing so that they may live independently.

Home of the Brave has begun a Capital Campaign to cover the costs of the facility, which they estimate at $350,000. Donations can be made at http://www.firstgiving.com/HOB/home-of-the-brave-capital-campaign. Home of the Brave also takes donations of clothing, furniture, linens and electronics that veterans may use to set up their new household when they transition out of the shelter. For more information on the Home of the Brave, individuals can email jfinan@homeofthebravefdn.org or call 30-424-1681.