Wounded Warriors of Collier County is leading a community initiative to open a transitional house for homeless Veterans in Collier County. We started a pilot program in December 2018 in partnership with Next Step, Incorporated. Wounded Warriors of Collier County has contracted for several beds to house homeless veterans; three beds have been occupied for most of the year and we have housed eight homeless veterans this year to date.
In mid-July 2019, we conducted the first ever official homeless Veteran count in Collier County. Over 60 volunteers, representing 15 local organizations participated; churches, Veterans groups, Collier County EMS and the Sheriff’s Department. Over a two-day period, we located over 40+ self-reported homeless Veterans, and distributed backpacks with personal supplies and resource information. We initiated a comprehensive data program to certify each Veteran’s status, a current contact list and a detailed follow-up to understand each Veteran’s needs.
Early next year, Wounded Warriors of Collier County plans to open the first transitional home for Veterans which will house 8 Veterans. Prior to our efforts, there were no “beds” in Collier County for homeless Veterans. Sadly, they have been relocated to surrounding counties. Tentative plans are to partner with the David Lawrence Center to manage and operate the house. Other programs and wrap-around services will be available for each Veteran predicated on their needs.
Our first house will be named in honor of SPC Steven T. Hayes, US Army, 82nd Airborne. Hayes was a combat Veteran who served in Afghanistan, a resident of Collier County and could have benefited from this type of transitional housing. Tragically, he lost his life at age 25 on August 1, 2016 due to PTSD/TBI.
With this housing initiative, we can start to put an end to the cycle of homeless Veterans. We expect the house will become the pride of Collier County and all its citizens.