By Mike Fletcher Kokomo Tribune
---- — The wife of a Vietnam veteran, Judy Dennis knows all too well the struggles veterans face upon returning home.
That experience is what prompted Dennis, executive director of the Family Services Association, to push for construction of a veterans home.
Dennis shared her experience and thoughts with a group of veterans and representatives of veterans organizations Friday as she opened the doors to Jackson Street Commons for a tour of the 27-apartment facility.
Before taking the group on a tour, Dennis was presented with a check for $7,800 from the Military Foundation Inc. to put toward finishing the project. The funds were raised through contributions to the Military Foundation, which puts on Military Appreciation Days.
The contributions included $3,000 from Half Moon Restaurant & Brewery and Voiture 1103 40 & 8 Club, $1,000 from City of Firsts H.O.G. Chapter and $800 from Sts. Joan of Arc and Patrick School, said Gary Loveless of the Military Foundation.
The home is expected to be completed in February.
Dennis said applications are being taken for the apartments. The only criteria is being a homeless veteran with a physical or mental disability, said Dennis.
Along with 22 single apartments, the building will have five larger apartments for married couples, a large community kitchen and day room. Dennis also said counseling and other services for veterans will be available in the facility.
In Howard County alone, there are 7,500 veterans, with more than 114 reported to be homeless, Dennis said.
The Family Services Association teamed up with the city, local veterans organizations and hospitals to provide the home for veterans and surround them with services to help them recover and become self-sufficient.
“I think this is wonderful,” said Onnie Briggs of the Kokomo Legion Riders and 40 & 8 Club.
“I’m so glad they thought enough of our veterans to do this,” she said. “This is a wonderful concept. I feel so bad for our younger guys coming home. The suicide rates are up and some return and can’t find jobs. The government should do a lot more for our veterans. I’m glad Kokomo is doing this.”
The project is estimated to cost approximately $3.3 million.
The land was donated by the county and FSA received funding through a $2.5 million Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority grant to get the ball rolling. Community donations and a number of fundraisers sponsored by the VFW Post 1152 helped fund the rest.
Dennis emphasized the home will be a permanent place for veterans to live, not a halfway house.
“They can stay there the rest of their lives if they choose to,” Dennis said. “They have to come to the decision they want to help themselves.”