BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- A Norwalk resident credits the help he received from a Bridgeport organization that helps the homeless, primarily veterans, for him landing back on his feet.
Perry is a former National Guard and Marine Corp veteran who lives in Norwalk. He received help from Homes for the Brave in Bridgeport, a program of Applied Behavioral Rehabilitation Institute, Inc.
The Norwalk veteran had been trained as a military police officer and sniper, and for many years, was employed in various jobs, including as a security guard since his discharge in the 1980s.
Then several years ago, Perry got laid off. He had to move in with his mother, who subsequently became ill. Perry became her full-time caregiver.
When the woman died, her son was left with no place to live. His mother had cashed in her life insurance policy and spent most of her savings, and Perry was still unemployed.
Because his name hadn't officially been added to the lease where they live, he had 30 days to move out.
Perry had no place to turn. That's where ABRI stepped in.
With the aid of a vocational specialist and case manager at Homes for the Brave, he ultimately found a good job as an armed security guard with a local company, and ultimately housing.
“My advice to others is to follow the rules and give the program a chance. If you fight against it, it will come back to bite you. But if you embrace it, it will provide the stability and support you need to overcome your personal obstacles," he said.
The organization is a beacon of hope to Connecticut veterans who need support returning to productive and meaningful lives.
To date, the nonprofit has helped 1,000 men and women experiencing homelessness.
ABRI is among a string of Connecticut organizations that help veterans to receive a Newman's Own Foundation grant recently.
The money from the grant will be used for ABRI's Training for Success program, which helps place veterans in appropriate short-term educational programs and to provide scholarship money to help veterans pay for the classes, said Kaitlin Marinelli, Communications & Outreach Specialist, ABRI/Homes for the Brave.
ABRI operates four programs in Bridgeport:
Homes for the Brave (HFTB), which opened in 2002, provides 42 beds of transitional living for homeless veteran and non-veteran males, with 37 spaces designated for veterans.
The Waldorf Supportive Housing Program, which opened in 2005, provides nine units of permanent housing with case management services for formerly homeless men, with priority given to veterans.
The Homes for the Brave Veterans Service Center opened in 2010. There, homeless veterans have their immediate basic needs met. They receive assistance and referrals to find housing, vocational services and other supportive services.
Female Soldiers: Forgotten Heroes (FS:FH), at the PFC Nicolas A. Madaras Home, which opened in 2011, provides transitional housing for up to 15 women Veterans and their small children. The VA funds 10 beds for women, and the remaining five are available for overflow and for children.
Many veterans have a need for short-term training to ensure that skills they acquired in the armed services are transferable to the civilian labor market, Marinelli explained.
"They often need to complete civilian training in order to obtain industry certifications and occupational licenses to use the skills they acquired in the military. For instance, civilian jobs may require forklift operator licenses, nurse assistant and security guard certifications, CPR and first aid training, or commercial driver's licenses."
In addition, some licenses and certifications require training and refresher courses and a primary barrier to employment for veterans is access to education, Marinelli continued.
The Newman's Own Foundation grant will help pay for training for pharmacy technician, emergency medical technician, and commercial driver's license.
"With improved access to these educational opportunities, the Veterans we serve will be better able to secure and retain employment that will enable them to support themselves and their families," said Marinelli.
A Comedy Night fundraiser to benefit Homes for the Brave is set for Friday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. at Vazzani's Four Seasons, 337 Kenyan St., Stratford.
Tickets are $50; $500 for a table of 10 at homesforthebrave.org/comedy or call (203) 338-0669.
Click here for more information about Homes for the Brave.