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Striving to fill the need

Group serving homeless veterans closes in on sixth home

Contributions may be sent to Home at Last, P.O. Box 6104, Brattleboro, VT 05302.

BRATTLEBORO—A nonprofit that provides permanent housing to homeless veterans is managing to hold its own, despite ever-increasing demand for its services.

Home at Last was founded by Robert Miller of West Brattleboro, a disabled World War II combat veteran, in 2008. It now owns five mobile homes — three in Brattleboro, one in Westminster, and one in Hinsdale, N.H. It will soon take ownership of its sixth home, also in Hinsdale.

Board chairman Tom Appel said the combination of rental income from its five units, plus the proceeds from last year’s fund appeal, has enabled the volunteer-run organization to stay modestly in the black.

Appel said tenants pay up to 30 percent of their income, when possible, to rent their homes. But Appel admitted that the volunteers have had their hands full in dealing with the issues that come with being landlords.

“Providing homes to the previously homeless doesn’t provide a cure for their problems: it provides a foundation for a cure,” said Appel.

Part of that foundation is working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides the caseworkers, the counseling, and the medical assistance to the veterans in the Home at Last units.

“The criteria for being in one of our home is that you’re in a VA program and you’re not abusing drugs or alcohol,” said Appel.

Their tenants range in age from their early 40s to mid-60s, spanning the eras from the Vietnam War in the 1960s to the first Gulf War in 1991.

“There still is a huge backlog of vets who need help, and that’s not even taking into account the people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Appel.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 25 percent of the homeless population of the United States are military veterans. Of that number, 45 percent suffer from mental illness and 50 percent have substance abuse problems.

Home At Last in the midst of its annual fundraising campaign, and has received some extra help this year.

A group at Brattleboro Union High School, Students Supporting Veterans, has also offered fundraising help and other assistance to Home at Last. Appel said the BUHS students raised about $500 this year through bake sales and other events.

The group was formed with the help of BUHS social studies teacher Tim Kipp, who is now retired and on the Home At Last board.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #229 (Wednesday, November 13, 2013). This story appeared on page A1.

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