A homeless veterans facility in Mobile got the attention of a top naval officer during the recent Navy Week here in the Port City.
Rear Adm. Ron Fritzmeier, chief engineer of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, toured the Volunteers of America Southeast Eagle’s Landing facility as one of many local stops for Navy Week.
Fritzmeier was complimentary of the facility that provides temporary, transitional housing for up to 38 male veterans per year. He also acknowledged the challenge facing the country and the military when it comes to homeless veterans.
“You know it’s, in a sense, one of those tragedies that we have continued to get the medical technology to be able to take care of the needs of our military and veterans, but taking care of the wounds on the inside has always been harder,” he said in an interview following the tour.
The Navy, Fritzmeier said, exists to defend the homeland. He argued that it’s not just about geography, but also about values and a way of life.
“That’s what we exist to defend, and then you see the unfortunate consequences for many vets,” he said. “The struggles they have, frankly, sometimes it’s their own poor choices, but oftentimes there is a root and some experience they had — especially recently because of all the sustained conflicts we’ve had — that can be really, really hard to deal with. So, it’s great to see these communities of people who are now going, ‘we need to care for these folks.’”
Fritzmeier touted the facility’s 80 percent success rate and said he was thrilled by the work it has done for the lives of veterans.
“They talked about some of the victories of the men they’ve been able to help and how they’ve been able to help them work through whatever kinds of issues they’ve had to help them find stable employment, affordable housing, acknowledging that not everybody turns the corner, but they were talking their numbers …,” he said. “So, overall, I was like ‘oh my goodness, what an amazing facility.’”
Eagle’s Landing Program Director Deborah Murph said the nonprofit facility’s goal is to help homeless veterans transition into a job and affordable housing within two years.
“The goal is to help get veterans off the street and help find them safe, affordable housing,” she said. “We try to help them work on their goals … .”
Every one of the facility’s 38 furnished studio apartments is currently full, Murph said. There is a waiting list, but she didn’t share how many veterans are currently on it. Residents can stay up to two years, but most are transitioned to housing of their own in about a year, on average, she said. The facility works to help them apply for benefits, as well as actively look for jobs while they’re there.
Services at the facility include case management, life-skills training, job readiness, job placement assistance, transportation and assistance with securing long-term, permanent housing.
The Moffett Road facility is funded in part through a per diem grant program from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and several benefactors.
“The VA works with us to help us provide case management services,” she said. “Our benefactors help us do what we do as well.”
For instance, she said the Jake Peavy Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the Mobile native and former Major League Baseball pitcher, helped the facility put in a garden, which is tended by the residents.
“They took us out to the garden that they said some of the residents manage, which was, again, I can’t remember ever seeing a real garden that was as clean and neat as this place,” Fritzmeier said. “It was just incredible.”
Like Fritzmeier, Murph acknowledged there is still a need for services like the ones Eagle’s Landing provides.
“I hope one day we’re not needed,” she said. “That would mean all veterans are housed.”
Eagle’s Landing takes donations of cash, cars, trucks, boats and even real estate. Those interested can volunteer as well. For more information on Eagle’s Landing, call 251-300-3500.
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