There's a saying in the military to "never leave someone behind." As reports of high rates of PTSD, mental illness, homelessness and suicide surface among returning veterans, the question becomes, what can we do as a society to better help vets who have been let down by the system and left behind?
Pastor, former policeman and USAF veteran Donnie Davis has an interesting take on one potential solution. Davis is the founder of Operation Safe Haven, a microhousing community that provides housing, healthcare, counselling and therapy animals for veterans suffering from PTSD or homelessness. A bit more on the project via Pickler & Ben:
Situated on an old 277-acre campground in Franklinville, New Jersey, the organization works with volunteers as wall as federal, state and local agencies to build 300-square-foot dwellings for veterans struggling with readapation. The project is entirely funded by donations, and has so far raised USD $265,000 out of a goal of $500,000 since 2016. In return for free housing and counselling, vets participating in the Operation Safe Haven program help maintain the property and its community gardens, which provide food for the vets and local families. Says Davis:
The idea is to help homeless veterans get back on their feet and contribute to society again. There’s no overhead, so all donations to the campaign go straight to the project.
The tiny houses all use solar power and composting toilets, and the campground itself is a hub of activity, hosting a variety of community events, such as kids’ day camps to family picnics. Davis was inspired by the ethos of self-reliance that underlies the tiny house movement, as well as his own personal life experiences:
Helping others has been my own therapy. My PTSD came from serving in the police department. Up until a year ago, I couldn’t even say what I struggled with out loud. I never realized how much I needed this, too.
Vets in Operation Safe Haven's transition program can stay up to two years, during which participants can undergo skills retraining to help them better reintegrate. The aim is that by the time a vet leaves, they will have had completed their education, or a job and permanent housing lined up. For veterans who have suffered so much as a result of their service, it's great to see a project that gives them tools to rebuild their lives. To find out more, or to donate, visit Operation Safe Haven and GoFundMe.