As the nation debates the merits of allowing women to serve in front-line combat positions, one local organization is working to ensure female veterans have equal opportunity to escape the perils of homelessness.
Home of the Brave, which has been providing transitional housing for homeless male veterans on Sharps Road since 1992, is hoping to soon open a new facility capable of serving their female counterparts.
“It is estimated that 5 percent of all homeless veterans are actually women, many of whom are single mothers,” said Linda Boone, chairwoman of Home of the Brave’s board of directors. “Any yet, there is not currently a single shelter dedicated to serving that population anywhere on the Delmarva Peninsula.”
In November, Home of the Brave obtained a mortgage on a 3,300-square foot, $180,000 single-family home on Griffith Lake Drive, southwest of Milford, that they hope to convert into a temporary shelter for up to six women, and possibly their children.
But first, the organization must receive a special use exception from the Sussex County Board of Adjustments to operate the shelter in an area zoned for residential use.
“I’ve been trying to meet as many of the neighbors as I can to let them know what’s happening here, because they’re curious,” Boone said. “So far, they’ve all been very supportive and several have asked how they can help.”
Boone said the house, which has been vacant for nearly two years, would need about $70,000 worth of repairs and upgrades, including a new 2,800-gallon septic system able to accommodate the proposed shelter.
“We’re taking on about $13,000 of repairs now, and if we get the approvals we need, we’ll start on the rest,” she said. “But if we don’t get the approval, then we’ll stop there and work on selling the property and looking for a new location.”
But after two years of working to develop a women’s shelter, Boone said she and her fellow board members believe they’ve found the perfect location at Griffith Lake Drive home.
“We looked all over Milford and even in Dover, but this is great because it’s just 7 miles from our men’s shelter,” she said. “It has a great layout, plenty of room and requires only a minimal amount of renovation.”
Boone said the temporary shelter for female veterans would operate exactly like the men’s shelter on Sharps Road, where veterans can stay for up to two years while receiving case management, counseling, referrals to substance abuse programs, transportation to work and appointments and clothing. Staff also would be at the site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Page 2 of 2 - Unlike the Sharps Road facility, however, funding for the women’s shelter would not be provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Funding for these types of services is being reduced at the federal level from $250 million a year to just $150 million in 2014, because the VA has set a goal of eliminating veteran homelessness by 2015 and therefore doesn’t believe it will need to keep spending money on the problem,” Boone said. “Instead, all of our operational funding for this shelter will come from donations and grants.”
So far, the organization has raised about half of the $300,000 that Boone expects it will cost to operate the facility each year.
“We didn’t really start any heavy fundraising until September and we currently are awaiting word from 15 agencies and organizations that we’ve applied to for grants,” she said. “I feel confident we can have the money in place and be ready to open in late May or early June.”
Boone said it also is not yet clear whether the shelter for homeless female veterans will be able to accept children, and if so, how many, of what age and for how long.
“We’re in the process of putting together a committee to examine all of that and really get into the nuts and bolts of the policies and procedures we need to have in place,” she said. “At first, it may only be adults, because we know how to do that already.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT Sussex County Board of Adjustments
WHEN 7 p.m. March 4
WHERE Sussex County Council chambers, 2 The Circle, in Georgetown
ONLINE Board of Adjustment meetings can be viewed live online at www.sussexcountyde.gov
FOR MORE INFO Anyone with questions about the proposed shelter or interested in making a donation can contact Home of the Brave at (302) 424-1681.