George Taylor Jr. does not remember a time his father was not helping veterans. The elder Taylor, a Vietnam veteran, began informally assisting down-on-their-luck fellow veterans when his son was growing up in Titusville.
With his high school diploma hot off the press, George Junior wanted to enlist and follow his father’s military footsteps into the Army, where George Senior had served as a paratrooper with the 173rd Division. Dad had other ideas.
"When I came home and said I was going in the Army, he told me that I was going to be Air Force," said the son.
So began a military career that continues after 18 years for 36-year-old George Junior, currently a full-time reservist for the Air Force 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base. Superintendent of the rescue helicopter unit, he has seen his share of deployments, from Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa to Diego Garcia and Somalia, from where he returned in October. There are more to come since Taylor expects to remain with the military for at least 12 more years before retiring and pursuing a teaching career.
During active duty, the diligent Taylor also managed to earn an undergraduate degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Through all the deployments and studies, there has always been his connection with the National Veterans Homeless Support (NVHS), the group founded by his father in 2008.
"I work on it pretty much any moment I can spare when I am awake," said George Jr., the vice president and chief financial officer for NVHS.
NVHS is a family affair for the Taylors. Dad George is president, George Jr.’s wife, Jennifer, handles the program director tasks, and his stepmom, Jan, is the housing program manager.
The family’s passion for service has paid off big time for local veterans. In 2008, when NVHS was founded, 1,800 veterans were homeless in Brevard. Fast forward to 2018, when Brevard County’s homeless veteran population has been reduced by an amazing 88 percent to just 216.
The volunteer organization headed by the Taylors connects with homeless veterans where they live, in the streets, under the bridges and in the woods. Through the efforts of former State Sen. Mike Haridopolos, the nonprofit received a grant that funded the purchase of four transitional housing units so veterans can have safe, decent housing while they turn their lives around. Continuing help from the state, plus grants, United Way funds and private donations allow for the group to provide services to get veterans back on their feet.
"We are now also focusing on prevention, because there are currently 4,400 veterans living below the HUD Poverty Guidelines and at-risk of homeless," Taylor said.