Home Port battles veteran homelessness

One afternoon in September of 2015, Maj. George Brown, retired from the United States Marine Corps, received a horrific call. On the other end was the daughter of a fellow friend and Marine. Through her hysterical cries she was barely able to tell George that her father had just shot himself and his body was there in front of her, surrounded by police.

On the drive to Mississippi, George asked himself, “Why, why would he do this?”
This question led him to do research. From his research, he learned that there is an alarming rate of homeless military veterans in the United States. He also learned that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of many problems that our veterans suffer from. PTSD is also a major contributing factor in homelessness among veterans.

Home Port Macon
Home Port Macon is located near the intersection of I-75 and Eisenhower. It is across the street from McDonald’s near Walmart. Photo by Rodricka Foreman.

At this moment, George and his friend, John Davis, decided that they must find a solution to the problem of homelessness among veterans. “That would be the thing we would attack, that would be the thing we try to help solve, especially in our home city and state,” George recalled.
From the tragic loss of his friend, Home Port Macon GA, Inc., was born.
What was once the Villager Lodge Hotel on Harrison Road in Macon is now Home Port Veterans Transition Home, a shelter for homeless veterans and their immediate family members in the Middle Georgia area.

Home Port Macon GA, Inc., is led by a group of gentlemen with close ties to both military veterans and their Middle Georgia communities. The board of directors consists of three men: George Brown, Major USMC (Ret.); John Davis, USMC Staff Sergeant (Ret.); and Sanjeev Venkat, a Macon business owner and general contractor who owns the property where the Home Port Veterans Transition Home is housed.

Being that Home Port Macon GA, Inc., is a fairly new organization, it has no employees at this time. It is a nonprofit organization. However, the founders have been fortunate to receive the support of many members of the Middle Georgia community, including other military veterans, who have donated their time and skills to create a home-like environment for their fellow veterans who are in need of housing.

All of the on-site services are provided by volunteers. Most of the resident referrals come from other local organizations and by word of mouth, although veterans have come to the Home Port Veterans Transition Home from as far away as Texas and Missouri. The distance needy veterans have traveled to reach Macon just goes to show how necessary the program is.

While being housed at the transitional home, veterans can expect to receive meals at the home at least four times a week. All of the meals are made possible through the donations from a few local restaurants and churches in the Middle Georgia area.

Though Home Port Macon GA, Inc., is a new business, and their veteran’s transitional home is still in the developing stages, the board has many plans for the future of the organization. A counseling center, classrooms, and rehabilitation center are all in the works. This has not yet been possible, however, as almost all of the funding for the program coming out of the board members’ own pockets. At this time, they have not received any state or federal grants. Volunteers and donations are critical to the success of the program, and it is through Middle Georgia’s generosity that Home Port has grown.

While at the Home Port Veterans Transition Home, I got a chance to speak with a few of the veterans who live there. One veteran in particular stood out, a man whom I will call Tony to protect his identity.

At one time, Tony was in hospice, an organization that caters to clients who are not expected to live much longer. Tony pulled through his illness and survived, but he had no place to call home until he found Home Port Macon GA, Inc.

While living in the transitional housing, Tony has found friends who he considers to be his family. He says that he loves what Home Port Macon GA, Inc., and its volunteers are trying to do to help the veterans. Tony says that without this valuable organization, and the housing and support it has given him, there is a strong possibility he could be dead. “This place saved me,” he says, “and when I am here I am home.”

It is clear to see the wonderful things that Home Port Macon GA, Inc., is doing to help our veterans. With hardly any outside funding, Mr. Brown, Mr. Evans, and Mr. Venkat, and their team of volunteers, do a great job to make our veterans and their families feel welcomed and at home. The Middle Georgia churches and businesses who supply food, supplies, and services to the home are also to be credited for their contributions and support.

Though the Home Port Veterans Transition Home is still growing and expanding, I am sure that with time and help from the community this organization will grow and be able to meet the needs of our homeless veterans here in the Middle Georgia area and beyond.

Home Port Macon GA, Inc., has a community volunteer day at the Home Port Veterans Transition Home on the first Saturday of the month, every 3 months. The next community volunteer day will be on September 9, 2017. On September 9, volunteers will be able to help with the rehabilitation of the building. Community members with building skills, or a willingness to learn, are encouraged to attend. Plumbers and electricians are especially needed. Questions about volunteering or donations can be forwarded to George Brown by phone at (478) 477-0170 or by email at george@homeportmaconga.org.

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