There is a promise in the military to leave no man behind. Volunteers in Collier County want to make good on that promise to veterans long after they finish their service.
More than 50 volunteers, including Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Emergency Medical Services, representatives from the Veteran Administration and several non-profits walked through the woods, along with other areas. Their mission is to reach out to homeless veterans to gather information and give them backpacks filled with supplies to meet their immediate needs.
Dale Mullin, president of Wounded Warriors of Collier County, said they need to quantify the homeless veterans and their locations.
“Our goal is then to provide services and housing for these homeless veterans,” Mullin said, “through grants in the county as well as the VA.”
Mullin spearheaded the count and is working with the Hunger and Homeless Coalition of Collier County, as well as many other non-profits and veterans organizations.
“I’m a Vietnam veteran and when I found out there are homeless veterans living in our county that there’s no place for them to sleep, no beds for them in terms of getting their lives restored,” Mullin said, “it really resonated and really touched my heart.”
Mullin is a Vietnam veteran and for him and many others, the mission is personal. They have a goal of providing a stable living environment for homeless veterans.
“We know that if you provide stable housing for veterans or anybody that’s homeless they can start getting back on their feet, getting jobs, restore their lives,” Mullin said. “Get back into the workplace with jobs and move on in society and support their families and that sort of thing.”
It would take years for U.S. Marine Veteran Dayo Felix-Doyle to restore his life after returning from a deployment in Iraq in 2006. He was dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and faced challenges adjusting to civilian life – as many veterans do.
“There was this hopelessness in a sense of how do I validate myself, where do I go next,” Felix-Doyle said. “Marine Corp had some programs available for helping you transition. But as far as becoming a civilian that was a hard thing that I think we struggle with.”
Felix-Doyle was living in his car when he had an ‘aha moment.’ He remembered a book and words of encouragement he received while deployed in Iraq.
“I remember there was a solider; I was standing guard duty with Perkins,” Felix-Doyle said. “He wrote some words in a book for me that were very motivating. And it was all about getting back to the very nature and those ideals brought me into the Marine Corp to help me succeed after the corp. The words in that book, I definitely embraced.”
It inspired him to drive to the VA and get housing help though its HUD-VASH program, which is a joint initiative of the government agency and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. It was a turning point.
Now married and raising a toddler, Felix-Doyle is a third-year law student at Ave Maria University. He plans to become an intellectual property attorney.
For other veterans who may be struggling, Felix-Doyle has a message of hope.
“Understand that even if it’s difficult, even if you might not see a way out – there’s a way out,” Felix-Doyle said. “There are programs and people out there that are willing to help you.”
JFCS of the Suncoast/ Veteran Services
941-366-2224, ext 628
Veteran Services of Collier County
Naples Vet Center
Veterans Crisis Hotline
Text 838255 to connect with a VA responder
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
David Lawrence Center
St. Matthew’s House
Salvation Army – Family Services Center