Home of the Brave: Providing Hope for Veterans in Need

There are 23 million brave men and women living in the United States, who have earned the right to call themselves veterans. From the beaches of Normandy, France, to the deserts of Iraq and in countless other conflicts and peacetime missions, these individuals, in many cases, risked their lives to protect our nation. Despite their bravery and sacrifices, more than 63,000 American veterans are chronically homeless — a statistic First Lady Michelle Obama has called a “moral outrage.”
Delaware veterans are not immune to these problems and Home of the Brave, a shelter focused specifically on veterans’ needs near Milford, is often where veterans turn when they have no where else to go. 
According to Jessica Finan, executive director of Home of the Brave, “On any given night there are over 500 homeless veterans in the state of Delaware. And we’re a tiny state.” Finan added, “We’re providing transitional housing for homeless veterans. So, if you’re a homeless veteran, honorably discharged, you’re able to come and stay in our program for up to two years. Our goal is six to nine months; everyone has a different reason as to why they are homeless.”
Without the help of Finan and the volunteers, the men and women, who are housed in the shelter, would likely be living on the streets. 
“I’d be in a tent in the woods, that’s probably where I would be,” said shelter resident Gerry Bonanni, a U.S. Army veteran who was stationed in West Germany in the 1980s. 
Bonanni and the shelter’s other residents are in need of help for a variety of reasons. Some seek treatment for addiction, others have post traumatic stress disorder, while some simply can’t find steady work. 
Finan said she works with each veteran to develop a plan of action, to address each individual’s specific needs and to help them become independent again. “We work on resume building, job skills, connecting them with a local school if they want to go back to school, or signing them up for benefits; whatever they need.”
Home of the Brave currently houses 15 male veterans. A new housing facility under construction on the same property will be capable of accommodating eight female veterans, along with their children, this summer. For residents, the shelter is a temporary home — they are all working to secure employment and find housing with assistance from shelter staff. 
“They’ve helped me find a place to live and helped to get all of my paperwork done. And, they’ve gotten me set up with work here at the shelter,” said Bonanni. “They want to get you back on your feet as soon as possible. It’s not like you can just hang out, it’s a transition house.”
 Some veterans have stayed at the shelter more than once. Tampa Scott served in the U.S. Army from 1976 to 1987. He visited the shelter back in 1995, but returned this year after falling into a state of depression. “I lost my grandmother, my son and my pastor all in the same month. Now that I’m here this time, I’m just trying to get back on my feet,” he said. 
Scott, like all of the residents, is anxious to make significant changes in his life. The 60-year-old is starting college in August and plans to study human services and drug and alcohol counseling. “This is my second time here and I’ve seen what this place means to so many people. I’d like to stay involved, maybe get a job doing this kind of work just to give back.”
These stories of perseverance are one of the many reasons why Finan and the shelter volunteers are so passionate about what they do. For Finan, helping veterans isn’t just a job, it’s a passion. “My job is amazing, it’s beautiful out here. We have some amazing veterans. It’s a good feeling because you’re giving back to the community and you’re giving back to those who served our country.” 
To make sure our readers understand the important work taking place at the shelter, Tampa Scott shared a portion of a poem he wrote about what the shelter means to him. 
“They lifted me up when I was down, 
which placed my feet on solid ground.
So again, I say I’m out of the cave, 
thanks to the help of Home of the Brave.
They understand the things that we have gone through.
And they will stand beside you, yes that’s what they do.
They represent our colors, that’s red, white and blue. 
So, if you’re a vet, the Home of the Brave will be there for you.”

Home of the Brave Images
Men's home
Women's home
Jessica Finan