NVHS banquet helps to fight veteran homelessness


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All 73 veterans in attendance were asked to stand and be individually recognized at the National Veterans Homeless Support Rescuing Veterans Lost in America Dinner.

Chris Bonanno

Would you believe that a single organization has been a key in helping to reduce Brevard’s homeless veteran population by 88 percent in the past decade?

Indeed, National Veterans Homeless Support says it has done just that, growing since its inception in 2008 under the direction of president and founder George Taylor Sr. to help reduce the number of homeless veterans in the county from 1,800 to 211.

According to the NVHS, the state of Florida estimates the cost to taxpayers of each homeless person is more than $31,000 per year in expenses such as medical care, jail and court costs. The reduction of the homeless population by 1,589 means that local governments save an astonishing $49.3 million annually.

The NVHS helps veterans find housing through a number of means, including financial assistance to veterans in need. The organization also educates veterans on what resources are available to them and helps to connect them with what is available.

“We actually have transitional housing for homeless veterans,” added office manager Kasey Corson. “We have locations throughout Brevard County. We have several different properties.”

It takes more than just NVHS to help families in need, Taylor Sr. said.

“We need the state attorney, we need the sheriff, we need the eyes of our police department and we need the eyes of our community, mayors, cities and the chiefs of police and all of us together to make a phone call, give us an opportunity just to have a talk with that veteran,” Taylor Sr. said. “.... It’s all of us together.’’

Given the importance of the organization and the wide swath of agency cooperation needed to make it a success, it should probably come as no surprise that the organization’s fourth annual Rescuing Veterans Lost in America fundraising dinner held at the Radisson Hotel in Cape Canaveral was attended by a Who’s Who in Brevard County. The elected and appointed officials who attended included Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, State Attorney Phil Archer and Titusville Police Chief John Lau.

“We aspire to be a good model for other counties, so they can mimic what we’re doing in Brevard,” said Dana Blickley, the Brevard County property appraiser, who also serves on the NVHS board of directors.

There were poignant and emotional scenes at the gathering, including a ceremony where an empty table sat at the front of the room to honor those who are either prisoners of war or missing in action. Additionally, a powerful speech was given by Karen and Billy Vaughn, parents of Aaron Vaughn, a member of Navy SEAL Team VI who was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2011.

NVHS honored two veterans who have long worked to help homeless veterans. They were recognized during the annual Rescuing Veterans Lost in America Dinner. Sam Samoncik, a 30-year Navy veteran, was named NVHS Veterans Advocate of the Year.  Al “Gunner” Dudley, department commander with the American Legion of Florida, was presented the community service award.

There also were lighter moments in the evening, including a charity auction where Ivey played the role of auctioneer.

“This is about our veterans,” Ivey said. “This is about those that made sure we have every freedom protected, we have every right protected and to see this turnout doesn’t surprise me ’cause that’s what Brevard County’s about.”

For information about donating or volunteering, call 321-208-7562 or go to nvhs.org