Haven for Heroes Co-Director Bart Ward says veterans are often in need of transitional housing while they re-integrate into society.
“Our business here is to help them get up on their feet,” says Ward. “Every one of them is different. Every one of them has different needs.”
Ward says $3 million worth of building equipment and in-kind labor has been donated to turn buildings on the former campus of the Anoka State Hospital into homes for veterans. They have rooms for 52 veterans in two buildings, with a third building under renovation.
Despite gains made toward ending veteran homelessness, Ward says it’s an on-going challenge. For one thing, just determining homelessness is difficult.
“Veterans are not typically people who reach out for help the way non-veterans do,” said Ward.
Haven for Heroes not only provides a room and a roof, but also works to connect veterans to treatment facilities as well as job resources. That includes figuring out how military job skills translate to the civilian work force.
“You have someone who’s been driving a submarine around for years and gets it back to its home base safe every time, that’s a real skill set,” says Ward. “To get that down on a resume often a veteran doesn’t know how to translate that skill set into it.”
Part of the job for Haven for Heroes is to connect veterans with counselors who help them translate job skills. The goal is to empower veterans to improve their situation, which can include beating drug and alcohol addiction. In doing so, Ward says they also restore dignity.
“They’re embarrassed and they shouldn’t be, but they are,” Ward says. “They just aren’t used to asking for help.”
Haven for Heroes is marking a two year anniversary in December.