- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Veterans advocates received a welcome gift when an anonymous donor offered a home on Waterloo’s east side that can soon serve as a veterans homeless shelter for the community.

The details are still being finalized to transfer the four-bedroom home to Americans for Independent Living, a nonprofit that specializes in home modifications for veterans. Work will need to be done to the home to prepare it to serve the needs of homeless veterans. But advocates told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (https://bit.ly/1XruKt5) it will be a big step toward ending homelessness among veterans.

“Our goal here is to eradicate all the homeless veterans population here in Black Hawk County. Hopefully this home will be the start of it,” said Kevin Dill, executive director of Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs Commission.

Dill said it’s estimated there’s an average of five to 30 homeless veterans living in the county each month. He said those veterans are currently served by other agencies that offer temporary housing, but are often already at maximum capacity.

He said regardless of the number, veterans sleeping on the street should not be tolerated, particularly since Black Hawk County has the fourth largest veteran population in the state.

Tim Combs, director of Americans for Independent Living, said the time frame for opening the shelter depends on a number of factors - how much work needs to be done, donations of labor and supplies and when the nonprofit officially owns the home.

But his goal is to have it up and running within 60 to 90 days.

To that end, he is appealing for donations of materials and volunteer labor. People can donate at www.americansforindependentliving.org or by calling Combs 243-9932.

Combs does have a good foundation of funds to get the project started - a $100,000 donation from the Trump Foundation. Combs’ agency was one of the veterans groups to receive funding following a fundraiser now-presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump held this past January at Drake University.

While Combs appreciates the donation, his long-term vision for giving a hand up to area veterans will require much more funding.

Dill said one of their top priorities now is securing transportation so homeless veterans can get job training, get to interviews and show up for jobs.

Long term, Combs said the goal is to have a homeless shelter for both men and women veterans, as well as securing transitional housing, allowing veterans up to two years to get back on their feet.

“We want to be there, be a partner, and a friend and family member with them for the entire time,” Combs said.

Dill called the anonymous home donation a “goodwill offering that (shows) they care about veterans and wanted to see something done.” Combs adds that there needs to be more of that in the community.

“Tim and I are trying to be a light in a dark world and help them (veterans) get out from under the bridges, let them know that their life story is not over, that we do care about them, and we’ll get them a place to call home for a while and get them back on their feet,” Dill said.


Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, https://www.wcfcourier.com

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