Vince Sintilli, CEO of Homes for the Brave in Bridgeport, posed this rhetorical question to call attention to one of the services the 501(c)(3) he leads provides to help and guide homeless veterans to resume productive and meaningful lives.
Sintilli is a retired banker. He was invited to talk to the group by Y’s Man Randy Abrams, a volunteer and board member at this veterans service center.
He — Sintilli — brought two messages. First, since its establishment in 2002 Homes for the Brave has helped over 1,000 men and women who have served our country to get back on their feet; second, that its federal and state support was slashed from 74 percent of their $2.2 million budget two years ago to 49 percent next year — a cut exceeding $500,000.
Over half the loss was federal and state grants for housing and training homeless adults. Sintilli called these “political,” because state officials frequently said veterans’ homelessness no longer exists. He countered that on any night our state can have over 3,000 homeless, of whom as many as ten percent are veterans.
Homes for the Brave owns three facilities, all in Bridgeport. One is 42 bed transitional housing for male veterans. A second is Waldorf House, in Black Rock, a three story building housing nine men, three to a floor, each in his own room, with a shared bathroom and kitchen on each floor.
Female veterans — our “Forgotten Heroes” — live in a 15 bed home, a “gorgeous sanctuary,” with nine bedrooms and six baths. Some rooms are singles, others are larger, designed for women with children. It is the only such facility in the Tri-State area. Its location is kept private because it is not uncommon for residents to have been victimized.
Homelessness generally results from substance abuse, lost jobs, or lost relationships, in no particular order. Many Homes residents are battling addiction, and almost all suffer from some degree of PTSD. Residents’ ages can run from those recently discharged to Vietnam era veterans and beyond.
Each resident is assigned to one of the three Case Managers who oversees their day-to-day lives — particularly so for those with less than Honorable Discharges. Needs vary widely — parolees enter needing “white socks and underwear,” others begin with basic personal care — cleaning their room and eating properly.
They all learn life skills — budgeting, managing a checkbook and paying bills. And they are all helped in finding employment and permanent housing.
Residents have the opportunity to work in the 12 station computer lab, where a volunteer instructor, a Navy veteran who teaches at Platt Tech, helps them the learn skills they need to seek employment, including structuring, writing and submitting a resume online — after all, who takes a paper resume today? Still other volunteers prep them on face to face interviewing.
Case workers from Senators Richard Blumenthal’s and Chris Murphy’s offices come monthly to help residents solve problems with federal agencies. The Danbury Veterans Center also provides services.
Yet not every one succeeds. Some relapse to addiction treatment programs. But Sintilli mentioned a 93 year old WWII SeaBee who recently left for permanent housing. He called him “a wonderful influence on the house.” He noted a man who recently reacquired his trucker’s license and returned in his rig to make a donation, and another, an ex-Air Force pilot who trained to become an EMT, and is now a medivac helicopter pilot.
Both men invited Y’s Men to donate and to volunteer. Homes seeks donations of cash, vehicles, even daily necessities like toiletries, socks, underwear and bedding. They seek hands-on volunteers who can serve meals, or teach skills, and those who can connect with businesses looking to hire veterans. Abrams helps people ready to seek employment, and he leads an art therapy workshop.
Homes for the Brave helps their cause by running fundraisers — a miniature golf tournament, a pub crawl, a bingo night, and an evening of veterans bringing their comedy to the Tree House at The Westport Inn.
If you are interested in giving back, you’ll find information and opportunities at homesforthebrave.org.
Photo by Ted Horowitz