'People still need help': Homes for the Brave adjusts ways to accept holiday donations

General Needs Ltd., a group which focuses on helping homeless Long Island veterans and their families, recently donated a large amount of shoes and socks to Homes for the Brave in Bridgeport. Pictured far right is General Needs founder Lonnie Sherman. Homes for the Brave board president Robert Kozlowsky is pictured third from left.

General Needs Ltd., a group which focuses on helping homeless Long Island veterans and their families, recently donated a large amount of shoes and socks to Homes for the Brave in Bridgeport. Pictured far right is General Needs founder Lonnie Sherman. Homes for the Brave board president Robert Kozlowsky is pictured third from left.

Homes for the Brave / Contributed photo

SHELTON — COVID-19 pandemic protocols have changed the ways people can donate this holiday season, but not the desperate need that exists — especially among some of the area’s 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 reminding people that there are still ways to make this a happy holiday for those in need.

“This is a big time of the year … we do see an uptick of groups and individuals coming in with prepared foods, serving food, holding holiday parties for veterans,” said Robert Kozlowsky, longtime Shelton police lieutenant and Homes for the Brave board president.

“With the pandemic, that has all changed, but people still need help, and we want people to know there are ways to do it.”

Kozlowsky said Homes for the Brave can still take donations — anything from new clothing items, food, and cleaning and paper goods to gift cards.

Kozlowsky said people can donate individual dinners for residents, but no large gatherings will be held like previous holiday seasons.

“Donations could be as simple as students making holiday cards for the veterans … a way to let them know they have not been forgotten,” Kozlowsky said. “It’s hard because we can’t have that regular face-to-face, but it means a lot, too, for them to get that letter or card.

“We can't be together inside, but we can come together to help those veterans who desperately need our help,” Kozlowsky added.

Kozlowsky was recently reelected board president for Homes for the Brave, which opened in 2002.

Homes for the Brave 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. in Bridgeport, where residents have access to a fully-stocked kitchen, laundry room, computer lab, social meeting areas, and even fitness memberships at the Cardinal Sheehan Center. Each resident can live on-site for two years and assists with daily chores.

Over the past year, Homes for the Brave has served 181 individuals, including children. Of the 177 adults offered aid, 133 were discharged and 44 remained in one of the three housing programs beyond June 30.

Homes for the Brave provided 17,106 nights of safe shelter, 17,120 meals, 520 hours of life skills training, 350 hours of computer education, and found employment for 86 percent of residents who used its services.

Kozlowsky said the facility has remained open during the pandemic, offering normal services with extra safety protocols in place. He said there has not yet been any increase in demand, but many experts say the veteran population will soon need services such as those offered at Homes for the Brave.

“We have not closed our doors,” Kozlowsky said. “We are changing ways in which we raise money for our services … but we will always be here for those who put their lives in the line for all of us, to protect our freedoms.”

He said people can go the Homes for the Brave website for its holiday wish list or call 203-338-0669 for more details.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com