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New roof at Bravo House emphasizes plight of homeless veterans in Southwest Florida

August 09, 20234 min read

New roof at Bravo House emphasizes plight of homeless veterans in Southwest Florida

Rachel Heimann Mercader Naples Daily News

Wounded Warriors of Collier County's new Bravo House is pictured on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 in Naples.

Replacing a roof that protects homeless veterans was the least Hannah Vogel felt she could do to help those who have sacrificed so much for their county.

She said that after meeting Dan Mullin, who founded Wounded Warriors of Collier County, she immediately knew her construction company needed to get involved.

That's how Vogel Construction, co-founded by Vogel and James Hartney, ended up at Bravo House late last month to build a new roof. The company donated the labor and installed roofing materials acquired with a grant from a Naples Home Depot through the Home Depot Foundation. Vogel’s labor is estimated to be valued at over $10,000.

Bravo House, the second home for homeless vets in Collier, opened last April as part of a three-year initiative to provide housing and services for homeless veterans of all ages. 

As the community comes together to celebrate Veterans Day, data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shows that for every 10,000 veterans in the United States, 21 were experiencing homelessness. Veterans make up about 6 percent of the population of the United States but 8 percent of the country’s homeless population.From 2019 to 2020, the number of veterans without stable housing increased to 37,252 in HUD’s annual estimate, a few hundred more than the year before.

Social service advocates say the Wounded Warriors organization has heightened awareness of the plight of homeless veterans in the community since it was founded and acquired its nonprofit status in 2014.

"We are fortunate to live in a very patriotic community made up of local businesses that are willing to step up and serve those who have served us," Mullin said. "It takes a community coming together to make a difference. Vogel Construction Group stands out as a great community partner." 

(Left to right) Vogel Construction Group's owners Hannah Vogel and James Hartney, smile in front of the Bravo House on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 in Naples, Fla. Vogel and Hartney fixed the roof of the Bravo House through a grant from the Home Depot Foundation. The Bravo House accommodates veterans who are are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in Collier County.

By Mullin securing a grant for the materials and the labor from Vogel, Wounded Warriors will have money freed up to meet other needs for the veterans such as mental health and more housing. 

Its efforts have not been without obstacles.

Last July, the city of Naples settled a federal fair housing lawsuit with Wounded Warriors over one of its houses. The lawsuit said that the city was discriminating against Wounded Warriors by denying a reasonable accommodation request for disabled veterans under fair housing laws. The settlement allowed for up to seven unrelated veterans to live at 1361 Fifth Ave. N. in the River Park neighborhood.Wounded Warriors had opened the Fifth Avenue location, called Alpha House, in January 2020 with three veterans and a house manager to comply with the city’s zoning regulation.

The veterans can stay up to a year and must follow rules that require them to not use any substances and attend 12-step meetings and mental health treatment outside of the residence. They pay 30% of their gross income in rent once they get jobs, according to Mullin.

Eight or nine veterans have lived in the residence, and more than half gained stability and were able to move out and be on their own, Mullin said in July.

Homelessness just one of many needs for veterans in Southwest Florida

In January, Wounded Warriors volunteers had identified 80 veterans that were experiencing homelessness. The Hunger & Homeless Coalition of Collier County verified 34 veterans that were homeless, based on HUD guidelines.

The Collier coalition reported that from October 2020 to the present more than 1,000 people were helped. Of that total, 132 were experiencing homelessness, including 79 who were veterans. The coalition serves people by coordinating available services to prevent and end hunger and homelessness in the county.

The Lee County Homeless Coalition, which coordinates housing and human services funding for homeless families and individuals in the county, also conducts an annual census. In 2021, there were 394 homeless people and 39 of them were veterans. 

Bravo House resident Ken Talbot sits in his living room, Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Naples.

Kenneth Talbot, 71, who enlisted with the U.S. Army in 1968, was the first veteran to move into Bravo House, a three-bedroom, two-bath residence. Since then, two others have moved in.

“It’s a mega relief,” he told the Naples Daily News in April. “Living on the street there are things you can do and certain things you can’t do.”

Talbot was staying in a shelter in Charlotte County because there were no shelter beds in Collier where his sister lives. Bay Pines VA Healthcare System ultimately contacted Mullin about putting him in housing so he could be near her.

Read the Article by Naples Daily News

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