- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Curtains are hung. The dripping shower is fixed, and beds are ready to house 60 homeless veterans at the Tri-County Veterans Support Center.
The center is in the former Changing Point rehabilitation center building at 11100 Billingsley Road in Waldorf and will be run by the Southern Maryland Veterans Association.
“You have a lot of veterans who don’t know about the benefits available to them,” said Dan Brashear, director of the veterans association, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1980 to 1988. Brashear organized the association a year ago. He previously organized the Western Maryland Veterans Association in Westernport, but the area did not provide a large population of veterans. Brashear said the center in Charles County is scheduled to open later this month.
Brashear, who has lived in Charles County for most of the past 40 years, said he decided to start a veterans association in Southern Maryland, “the area with the least representation.” Most services for veterans are in Baltimore.
He said he hopes the center will be a place for veterans to learn about the benefits available to them, to hang out with other veterans and a place for homeless veterans. The VA has determined that more than 300 homeless veterans are in Southern Maryland, Brashear said.
“That’s part of our outreach is we want to get in touch with veterans,” Brashear said, adding that the center will hold movie nights of war and military movies for veterans.
Part of the intake process at the center, Brashear said, will require that veterans provide a DD Form 214, military release or discharge papers. But, Brashear said, individuals will be given a two-day grace period and allowed to stay at the center while their paperwork is verified.
The center will have programs for women through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Programs already are lined up at the center to provide permanent housing for homeless veterans, to enable veterans to continue their education and to provide career development and employment opportunities, Brashear said. He said he hopes the center will have 17 programs to offer, in addition to 65 programs through partner organizations. A program through a partner organization would include treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The association also is working with House of Help City of Hope, a church-run rehabilitation center that currently occupies one end of the building.
Bishop Shirley Holloway said the rehabilitation center has helped about 6,000 to 7,000 men in the past six years.
“I’m excited about Dan coming in and our vision,” Holloway said, adding that she hopes a “faith-based approach will help those who are hurting” and deserve a second chance, especially those who have served their country.
Holloway said if more organizations such as the Southern Maryland Veterans Association and House of Help City of Hope worked together, then more people would be helped.
“I think that’s why we’re not able to get rid of homelessness and hunger,” Holloway said. With the church’s Waldorf site, Kingdom City women’s shelter in Suitland and other sites in the Washington, D.C., area, Holloway said the veterans association and center also will have access to many other resources through the church, and the church will share donations with the center.
The center also will provide veterans with information about the benefits they are entitled to. Computers will be set up at the center, Brashear said, and assistance will be available for veterans who would like to explore benefit options.
Brashear said he has plans for all three buildings on the property that once housed Changing Point South. In addition, ModSpace of Waldorf has donated four modular buildings, which will be moved to the property on Billingsley Road. Brashear said one of the modular buildings will be a gym; two will hold the association’s donation center; and the fourth will house security for the center.
“We’re happy to have the buildings and facility there go to a good cause and support the folks in the community,” said Bruce Taylor, owner of the property, which contains 60,000 square feet of space on 20 acres.
Taylor said Changing Point South, of which he was president, operated out of the buildings on Billingsley Road from 1988 until the mid-1990s and served adolescents and adults with alcohol, drug and gambling addictions.
Brashear said he began the association out of his Waldorf home and finds his volunteer work “rewarding.”
“If you can help just one family, you’ve met your goal,” said Brashear, who has filed requests for local, state and federal grant funding for the association and the center.
“Right now we’re existing on support from the community,” Brashear said.
The association and the center welcome donations by cash and check, as well as donations of computer equipment and other items to support veterans. Brashear said veterans and volunteers are welcome at the center.
“The coffee is on. The door is always open,” Brashear said.
How to help
The Southern Maryland Veterans Association will provide services to local veterans that include finding or providing temporary, transitional and permanent housing, offering employment counseling and guidance while providing information on services.
To volunteer or donate, call Dan Brashear, association president, at 202-495-9727.