In seven years, Eric Goff and Joe Miller have seen male veterans battling addiction, joblessness and other challenges become self-sufficient, thanks in part to their nonprofit that gives the men a roof overhead.
But now, the home, Warriors Rest, faces a tall order itself: Raise $30,000 in about 30 days to offer as a downpayment on its North Cascade Avenue residence, or close down.
“We need to come up with $30,000 in 30 days. We’re kind of hustling here,” Goff said Tuesday.
The owner is looking to sell the property, which Goff said he understands as a business decision, but he is hopeful that with the downpayment and partners on the mortgage end, he and Miller can purchase the home.
“There’s going to be some guys out on the street,” Miller said. “It’s not very big, but there’s 11 of us who are going to be out on the street. It may not seem like a lot, but if you’re one of those guys, it’s a lot.”
He said that if the downpayment isn’t raised, Warriors Rest would have about 60 days to clear out.
Goff founded the home about 10 years ago, first calling it Serenity House. It offers shelter and basic amenities to veterans in need — along with the camaraderie of shared experiences.
The men who stay there receive initial support until they can begin paying some rent and contributing to the household, as well as “paying it forward” by helping the new men who come in without resources.
Miller said that in the past three months, four men have transitioned out of Warriors Rest.
“That’s a drop in the bucket to some degree, but that’s four guys. They have their own places and are making their way,” he said.
One former tenant had served in the Army 10 years and when Miller found him, the man had suffered a stroke and was using a walker. The veteran came to the United States from Canada as a small child and although he served, he did not apply for citizenship, and therefore, didn’t qualify for many benefits.
The man now has a place of his own, Miller said.
“He was in no condition to be on the street, but that’s what he was facing, after 10 years of serving in the military,” he said.
“Some people, they brought it on themselves, but some of the people, maybe they did, but it was a little thing. It’s all different, but they all need a little help. Some of it, we bring on ourselves and some of it, we don’t.”
Warriors Rest is not the only nonprofit serving needy people that stands to close. Christ’s Kitchen has just a few weeks left on its longstanding lease for Penn Center Mall and will have to shutter if a suitable location for its hot meal service cannot be found. (See the July 30 Montrose Daily Press.)
The possibility of losing such services concerns leaders of Welcome Home Alliance for Veterans, a different nonprofit that provides centralized advocacy, social events and support for all veterans at its Warrior Resource Center on Hillcrest Plaza Way.
“If they get shut down, that’s more guys out on the street. We have a veteran who has been there quite a while and is being a productive citizen because he was able to get in there and get off the street,” the organization’s April Heard said.
“It’s kind of a scary thought. At least (with Warriors Rest) there is a possibility where a homeless veteran has a place to lay his head and get on his feet.”
Heard helped Miller establish a Facebook donation site, which can be found at https://tinyurl.com/fundwarrior.
“We’re kind of in panic mode,” Goff said. “We need all the help we can get from the community to raise this money. As far as I know, we’ve got 30 days. We’re not talking about a lot of time here. If we can make a good showing, I think we can get substantial support from some (partners). We have to do everything we can to make it work, regardless who our investors are.”
If Warriors Rest can secure the downpayment, it will continue to raise money to pay its bank loan.
Goff also hopes the community will tackle homelessness on a larger scale, including by addressing mental health issues he believes drive much of it.
Addressing the issues on a systemic basis will reduce the problems associated with homelessness, but people and governments tend to turn a blind eye to those needing help, Goff also said.
“It’s costing the community, county and city more than it would cost them if we had a shelter that had federal backing and grants,” he said.
“ … We (homeless resource organizations) realize we gotta hang together and work together, or we’re all going to ‘die’ alone. We’re going to have the powers that be keep our organizations from going forward and helping the city,” Goff later added.
The community comes together to help many groups and needs to do so for homeless veterans, Heard said.
“We have an awesome, supportive community. Why can’t they also come together and come up with some possible resolution to the homelessness issue?” she said.
People who receive help should also be willing to contribute in some way to their upkeep, Goff said.
“I believe it should be a hand up, the same thing we’re doing at Warriors Rest,” he said.
For more information about how to help, call Miller at 970-765-5135.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer.