Homes for the Brave stepping out to support homeless vets
BRIDGEPORT — One area organization is not letting coronavirus stop it from stepping up for homeless military veterans.
Homes for the Brave, a Bridgeport-based nonprofit operation that has served more than 1,200 homeless men and women, mostly veterans, with housing, vocational training and life skills coaching, is holding a nine-day Step Out for the Brave 40,000 Step Virtual Challenge.
The pandemic has forced Homes for the Brave to alter its signature fundraiser this year: Instead of the one-day Step Up for the Brave event, it is now a nine-day opportunity to walk 40,000 steps, one for each of the 40,000 homeless veterans across the United States.
“The money raised is so important for running our operation,” said Robert Kozlowsky, a Shelton resident who was recently re-elected as board chair of Homes for the Brave. “This is easy … people can do it anywhere, at any time during the nine days, and they will be helping our veterans in need.”
The virtual step-a-thon will run from Aug. 8 to 16, and people participate individually or as a group.
Homes for the Brave, which opened in 2002, is a 42-bed transitional housing program available to male veterans and non-veterans who are homeless with a staff focusing on helping every individual achieve goals for housing, employment and independent living.
The main Homes for the Brave facility sits at 655 Park Ave., where residents have access to a fully-stocked kitchen, laundry room, computer lab, social meeting areas and fitness memberships at the Cardinal Shehan Center. Each resident can live on-site for two years and assists with daily chores.
Kozlowsky said the coronavirus pandemic required almost daily special safety orders since the organization still had homeless veterans to house during the statewide stay-at-home policy.
“One of the challenges in my tenure is leading through unprecedented time of Covid-19,” said Kozlowsky, a Shelton police lieutenant who has been on the force for more than 20 years. “Our organization can’t shut its doors. Residents live here … they need food and services.”
Overall, Homes for the Brave has three residences. The other two — the Waldorf Supportive Housing Program and the Nicholas A. Madaras Home — are also in Bridgeport. The Nicholas A. Madaras Home is the state’s first and only community-based transitional home exclusively for homeless female veterans and their young children. The Waldorf Supportive Housing Program, which opened in July 2005, is a three-story residence that provides nine units of permanent housing with case management services.
“There have been so many changes to our protocols over the past months. It has been difficult at times, but we have a good board and an incredible staff that has made this work,” added Kozlowsky.
Kozlowsky said Homes for the Brave holds four major fundraisers a year, and the success of the benefit events is crucial, since the organization receives less than 50 percent of its money from state and federal funds, compared with more than 75 percent several years ago.
“With being a virtual event, our goal is to have one person from every state participate,” said Kozlowsky, adding that to this point states represented include Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, New Hampshire and Illinois.