BRIDGEPORT -- Veterans Day is a time to give thanks but also to remember to give to veterans in need. Many veterans who return home from service struggle to acclimate back to civilian life. Some find themselves homeless.
"Once I got here everything changed," Dave Watson said.
Watson served in the Army in 1976. He is one of the many success stories to come through the doors at the Homes for the Brave on Park Avenue in Bridgeport. Now with a home and a job, he still comes back to support his fellow veterans.
"I try to help them. Try to put them in the right direction and make sure that they get the help that they need," Watson added.
Watson lived in the 42-bed house that provides veterans with transitional housing, life skills coaching and job training. Recently Homes for the Brave began providing mental health treatment for veterans struggling with PTSD and addiction.
They look at past job skills and interests to help the vets look for jobs while helping train them for today’s workforce. They even teach them how to save up funds for a security deposit.
"Getting them ready mentally, physically and always emotionally to become permanently housed and to really be productive members of our society and out into their communities," Homes for the Brave CEO, Vince Santilli said.
Homes for the Brave provide everything for veterans once they walk through the doors from food to clothing and toiletries.
Homes for the Brave has two men’s houses and a women’s house. The veterans placed in one of the homes stay between 90 days to a maximum of two years. The average for men is 121 days.
"Getting them back in the game ready to be permanently housed within four to five months it’s almost magical," Santilli said.
Veteran’s Day has given the men in the home a chance to celebrate each other and the men and women they fought with. Reed Expositions, an international event planning organization based in Norwalk, provided the men with freshly prepared comfort food for dinner.
"As a veteran, it's important to me to make sure I stick with my brothers and sisters and help them out. I think a home-cooked meal is the least I can do," Chris Kowalczik said .
The home-cooked meal got great reviews from thankful vets. All of which happy to be with brothers working together to write their own success stories.
"All the veterans deserve a chance and spot to go," Watson said .
" It’s important just to take one day at a time. One step forward," Kowalczik said.
If you would like to volunteer or donate to Homes for the Brave, head over to their website.
You can also donate clothing, goods, and toiletries directly to Homes for the Brave at 655 Park Avenue in Bridgeport.