What began as a shared concern among eight local veterans is today the state’s oldest and most successful non-profit dedicated to transitioning homeless servicemen off the streets and into adequate housing.
The Home of the Brave, a 15-bed temporary shelter for homeless veterans on Sharps Road in Milford, celebrated its 20th year of operation Friday with an open house attended by dozens of local dignitaries and state legislators.
“Through the foresight and persistence of many, this worthwhile foundation, through the home it has established, has proved itself a haven of shelter and rehabilitation,” Sen. Joseph W. Booth (R-Georgetown) said Friday, reading from a formal tribute issued by the State Senate to commemorate the home’s anniversary. “And what a facility it is.”
Co-founder and current board member Les Stephenson, who served in the 1st Battalion, Ninth Division of the Marine Corps in Vietnam, said the facility has come a long way from its initial inception in 1992.
“The way it started was eight of us veterans were all in a counseling group together and we met a gentleman who was homeless,” Stephenson said. “He was admitted at Wilmington Hospital and then discharged and no one knew what happened to him.”
Concerned about the plight of their fellow veteran and others like him, they each pitched in $1 to open a bank account that they could use to raise funds for a transitional housing shelter for men in similar situations, Stephenson said.
In 1994, the veterans opened the original four-bed Home of the Brave with money raised from private donations and a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Today, the current facility, which opened in 1996, provides temporary housing to homeless veterans, as well as individual case management; mental health, vocational and benefits counseling; referrals to substance abuse programs and medical services; transportation to work and appointments; clothing; and household items for their new living arrangements upon discharge.
“The Veterans Affairs grant we receive for our operating costs allows the veterans to stay here for up to two years, but our goal is to get them enough resources to get housing – whether on their own, with their families or through the VA – within six to nine months,” said Linda Boone, chairwoman of the Home of the Brave’s board of directors and the former CEO of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. “While they are here, they treat it just like their home. They all have chores to do, just like any family.”
Boone said Home of the Brave currently is working to raise money to purchase a similar home capable of housing up to six female veterans and their children.
“As of 2009, there were 585 homeless veterans in Delaware, about 5 percent of whom are women,” she said.
Page 2 of 2 - Current Home of the Brave resident Lloyd Veeney, a 58-year-old U.S. Army veteran from Grasonville, Md., spent five years on the streets and in various shelters before a social worker at a Veterans Affairs hospital referred him to the facility in May.
“I would still be on the streets if I hadn’t come here,” he said Friday. “The best part is they help you get your benefits and assist you with getting back on your feet and getting your own place. I would recommend it to any veteran who was in the same situation I was.”
Liz Byers-Jiron, the deputy executive director of the Home of the Brave, said the main goal of the facility is to provide struggling veterans with a fresh start.
“Every one of these guys has a hidden treasure,” she said. “All they need is someone to help them regain their inner strength. It is truly and honor and a privilege to work with them. ”
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