Community Comes Together to Help Veterans

miniature home in hands

For more than eight years, Army veteran Rick Murphy didn't have a home. He slept wherever he could find a place to lay his head.

Now, thanks to veterans' organizations and help from the community, Murphy has his own place.

"I was homeless for about eight years living under bridges – anywhere I could find," said Murphy.

"The last two years I lived out of my car. The VA got wind of it and set me up with an apartment. Everything is now looking up. I get $258 a month. That's not much. But next year, I start getting my retirement from the National Guard."

Murphy was one of a handful of veterans who took advantage of the many offerings Friday at the annual Veterans Stand Down event for homeless veterans.

Put on by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1152 on North Washington Street, the event featured more than 45 community organizations that help veterans and their families with a variety of services.

"This is a great idea," Murphy said of the event. "This is a great opportunity for veterans."

The organizations offered clothes, free haircuts, health checkups, employment, shelter assistance and more for veterans in need.

During the event, Mayor Greg Goodnight presented the Community Service Award to Pam Isaac, program coordinator for the Domestic Violence Shelter at Family Services Association of Howard County, for her help in creating Jackson Street Commons, a 27-unit apartment complex for homeless veterans located at 322 E. Jackson St.

"It's an honor and privilege to part of this process and be part of this community," said Isaac.

"It's been a long process and now there's a home for 27 veterans."

Isaac, along with Judy Dennis, executive director of FSA, began the $3.8-million project four years ago. The project was completed in May.

The project has been a joint effort with the City of Kokomo, Howard County commissioners, Center Township trustee, St. Joseph Hospital, VFW Post 1152 and several other businesses and private donors.

"Four years ago, I stood up here and made a promise that we're going to find a homes for homeless veterans," Dennis told the crowd gathered at the VFW.

"We did it," she said. "This would not have been possible without this community," she said.

"They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a community to build this home. There were a lot of obstacles, and we learned so much about veterans and this community. This project is evidence of that."

Dennis also thanked the many organizations and individuals who donated their time and money to the project.

"We have 27 apartments completely furnished by individuals and organizations," said Dennis. "Each one has a story. One lady, whose husband died from Agent Orange, told me she had to do something to help veterans. Her husband loved his country and honored his country. He taught his kids to say thank you when they saw a veteran. That's what Jackson Street Commons is all about.

"We're not done," Dennis continued. "We won't rest until every veteran has a place to sleep and is not homeless.

"The real star of this show is one of the residents," said Dennis just before introducing veteran Kevin Dyer.

"He was the first to move into Jackson Street Commons."

Dyer, who served in the Marines from 1978 to 1981, was one of many homeless Howard County veterans.

"It's a nice place to live," he told the crowd. "It's nice to have a place to lay your head and not worry about being cold. It's really great. I love it. This is best place I ever lived."

Guest speaker Meredith Parks of Sen. Joe Donnelly's office thanked the veterans and the community for its continued support of veterans and for making Jackson Street Commons a success.

"Mr. Donnelly wanted me to share his gratitude to our veterans and thank them for their sacrifice," said Parks. "We enjoy the freedoms we have because of your sacrifice. Kokomo, Howard County and the state of Indiana are really blessed to have people committed to this cause."

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