Home of the Brave has settled into its new location near downtown Milford with Home of the Brave II, a transitional living facility for homeless female veterans, but maintaining the needs of homeless veterans, both men and women, is an ongoing project that depends on community support.
For 79-year-old Charles Drane, the Home of the Brave’s transitional facility feels like home.
Drane, who was in the Army Reserves, said he remembers when women weren’t able to serve in the military. But times have changed, and there needs to be a place for female veterans in need as well as for the men, he said.
“It’s a tough world today,” Drane said. “I think it’s a good idea what they’re doing here, and what they’re doing at the [female facility].”
It took a few years and some unfriendly debates on location, but now both male and female veterans in need of housing can find a place to rest in Milford.
The controversy surrounding the establishment of a homeless female veteran facility never resurfaced, and after the dust settled from open houses and media tours, the new Home of the Brave II facility on Causey Avenue is now a quiet repose for a few women trying to get back on their feet.
A vase of fresh flowers sits quietly on the sitting room table, and a dry-erase board is filled with a list of what the new residents are grateful for: kind people, family, health and a new home at HOB II.
While the house has nearly filled capacity, only three residents are currently calling it home, with one child also living in the three-story house built in 1907. The women are grateful, but keep to themselves, explained Home of the Brave Executive Director Jessica Finan, who said many are recovering from domestic violence.
The new facility comes with new challenges, like addressing school enrollment for children and other child-related needs, but Finan said she is thrilled to have a place for the ladies.
“This project has been in the mix for Home of the Brave for so long it’s a huge relief to have the program and see the community being so accepting of us,” Finan said. “Especially with the issue of buying the other house, I was apprehensive moving forward, but everyone has been so accepting – the neighborhood, the neighbors, the community itself.”
With that support comes an abundance of donations, especially clothing. While all donations are appreciated, Finan said, there are some items that are needed more desperately at both facilities, including fresh food, cleaning supplies and bus passes.
Home of the Brave Board of Directors Chairwoman Beth McGinn said the organization is still looking at its options with the one-year lease at the new facility, and believes the community support is a good sign for the new facility’s future.
“The support is amazing,” she said. “People are generous and they’re helping any way they can.”
There’s a learning curve with the new facility, Finan and McGinn said, but as they work to maintain and improve the new women’s facility, they want to make sure the men aren’t left behind.
At the Home of the Brave’s male facility, which was purchased and opened in 1996 at a farm house on Sharps Road in Milford, staff are working to enhance the 15-bed, 4,000-square-foot facility, which was built in 1872.
After big storms, like Irene and Sandy, came through and caused roofing issues that resulted in leaks at the male facility, Home of the Brave staff discovered that a new roof, as well as siding and new windows, was needed. Finan said hefty heating bills reiterated the need to invest in improvements, and staff have been working to generate donations for renovations that will hopefully cut down future utility costs.
“It’s so expensive to do all that, so as we’ve found small grants here and there, we’ve done what we could,” she said. Two sides of the house are currently completed, and the remainder will be supported by two grants − a $6,000 grant from the national American Legion Auxiliary and a $1,200 grant from the American Legion Oak Orchard Riverdale Post 28 in Millsboro.
“We’re doing everything in phases to make ourselves more green,” Finan added.
Regardless of flowers on the table or brand new siding, the residents at Home of the Brave are just happy to have a place to call home.
“I think it’s wonderful here,” said Merle Pierce, a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Navy. “It gets the homeless veterans back on their feet, helps them to get jobs for the ones who can work and the staff are wonderful. It’s like a resort to me.”
For more information about Home of the Brave or for a wish list of current needs, visit homeofthebravefdn.org.