The number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans, male and female, is greater than the number of soldiers who died during the war.

For far too many veterans here in Sarasota County and across this country, joining the military has proven easier than leaving it.

To try and cope with the disturbing memories that they bring home, it’s not uncommon for veterans to turn to alcohol, and sometimes drugs, to numb their emotions, and so the number of alcohol-addicted vets has roughly doubled in the last five years, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Army. Homelessness is compounding the problem for returning vets, leading some down the crippling road towards substance abuse.

Since, 2010 it has been our privilege at Harvest House to serve the male homeless veteran population with housing and wrap-around services. And, we have seen great success, with 85% of our participating veterans moving into permanent housing. But, did you know that the risk of women veterans becoming homeless is four times greater than for male veterans?

Thanks to the Lee Wetherington Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Baycross Christian Family Foundation, and the generosity of our donors, we will be opening a Family Village within the year. The Family Village will add 72 beds to our Home Again program, and a portion of which will be earmarked for veteran families who are homeless.

For Harvest House, it isn’t until these men and women arrive at our doorway looking for a last chance to repair and recover, that we have the chance to show them how very much we honor them and value their service to our country. When we finally do meet them, they have already worn through all the traditional opportunities for recovery and are often desperate for a chance to rebuild and recapture their past lives.

We think they deserve the best chance that we can provide to them, and with your support, we will always be able to provide it. On any given day, more than 300 men and women will wake up at Harvest House. Many of them are veterans. Under our roof these vets will receive shelter, rest, food, clothing, and a chance to turn the corner and return to the life they knew once before.

On behalf of each of these heroes, thank you for your support…