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Home of the Brave has worked for years to open a shelter that can take in women and children, and now they finally have one. / Gary Emeigh, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal

MILFORD, Del. -- Home of the Brave has opened the first shelter for homeless female veterans and their children in Delaware.

The Home of the Brave II building in Milford is the nonprofit's second try at setting up a women-only veterans shelter.

The group bought a foreclosed home on land outside of town and sought to renovate it to serve as a shelter in 2013. But resistance from neighbors, and the county Board of Adjustment's decision to grant a land-use exemption for only two years, prompted the nonprofit to sell that house and look elsewhere for a women's shelter site.

"We just thought, this is a losing battle," said Jessica Finan, the shelter's executive director. "Let's see where else we can go."

Where they ended up is a home that had already served as a place of respite for homeless men, Finan said. Home of the Brave is leasing the seven-bedroom, five-bathroom home.

"It was already ready to go and had the variance from the city," Finan said. "It was kind of a no-brainer."

Three women are now staying in the shelter; one with her young son. One woman, in her 40s, served in the Army National Guard; another, in her 50s, was discharged from the Marines; the third, in her 60s, served in the Air Force. The shelter has room for a total of eight women and children at a time. Any honorably discharged veteran is eligible to apply.

One day last week, two of the women made a meal in the kitchen, declining to be interviewed. Finan said one of the shelter's current residents became homeless after fleeing an abuser at home, a common factor in homelessness. For safety reasons, the shelter's doors are always locked.

About one in 20 homeless vets is a woman, according to federal statistics on homelessness. Also, one in five female veterans in the post-Sept. 11 era is unemployed, said former Home of the Brave Foundation Chairwoman Linda Boone, raising the risk of them becoming homeless.

"It's recognized by the Veterans Administration that female vets, they're becoming the biggest problem with homeless veterans right now," said John Knotts, director of Delaware's Commission of Veterans Affairs, which was not involved in the project. "They're growing in numbers."

Finding a way to fund the women's shelter was a challenge.

The original Home of the Brave near Milford has for years been funded in large part by a federal grant, but the Department of Veterans Affairs hasn't offered the organizations it supports a chance to apply for expansion grants since 2010.

So the nonprofit raised private funds to open its women's house, including two substantial donations from the Longwood Foundation and the Crystal Foundation that amounted to more than $100,000. The Milford Lions Club also contributed $8,000.

It's enough, Finan said, to keep the new home open for at least its first year.

"We need a funding stream that's continual, which we haven't found yet. We're constantly looking for that," Finan said. "I am hopeful that we will be here for quite a while."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Home for heroines shelters female veterans

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