Complaints from neighbors have forced the Home of the Brave Foundation to take another look at opening a homeless women veterans' facility near Milford. In a statement released May 9, the group said it would not open the facility and is in the process of selling the Griffith Lake Drive home.
According to the statement, the facility was met with hostile resistance from neighbors based on myths about homeless. The neighbors continue to express their hostility in a variety of ways and requested through an attorney that a fence be installed around the property to protect the neighborhood, according to the foundation. “Placing women veterans that often are in a fragile state within this hostile environment is a concern for the Home of the Brave board of directors,” said Linda Boone, board chairwoman.
In addition, the foundation board said it cannot comply with some of the restrictions placed on the facility by Sussex County's Board of Adjustment when it approved a special-use exception on April 11. Among conditions placed on the facility included a two-year approval subject to review with a limit of eight occupants.
“We are appreciative of their thoughtful deliberations and support; however these limitations have negatively impacted the ability for the program to move forward at this location,” Boone said. "The limit of eight occupants does not allow the best use of the home's capacity and investment dollars."
She said the group's fundraising efforts are stymied by having a limited two-year agreement with no guarantee of additional years. She said investors are hesitant to support the project.
The board will sell the property and seek another location to open a women warriors reintegration project. Boone said funds donated to the project would be placed in a separate account and monitored by the board of directors.
Home of the Brave has been providing services to male homeless veterans for more than 20 years; the current facility is located off Route 1 south of Milford.
During testimony, opponents said they supported the concept, but the home conflicted with the rural, single-family home setting of their neighborhood. Residents said they were concerned with their safety.
Boone said some of the perceived myths involving the proposed Home of the Brave women's facility included the following:
Home of the Brave is a shelter. Boone said the program is not a day-to-day shelter but a transitional living facility providing case management for its clients from nine to 12 months.
Residents are substance abusers. Boone said residents must demonstrate a minimum of 30 days of sobriety before they are allowed to take part in the program. Residents found to be using drugs or alcohol are discharged, she said. Drug tests are done on a regular basis.
Residents are criminals. Home of the Brave does not accept clients who appear to be violent or have a high probability of criminal activity, Boone said.
Residents will not have structured programming. Home of the Brave provides staff coverage 24 hours a day. Residents perform daily chores, follow curfews and work on individual plans to move them to independent living, Boone said. Failure to comply with the rules leads to discharge from the program.