Statement on proposed state nursing home for veterans

To: Collier County Board of County Commissioners 
From: Dale Mullin,  founder and president, Warrior Homes of Collier, Inc. 
Subject: State veterans nursing home, adult day healthcare and rehabilitation facilities 
Date: April 23, 2024 

Good afternoon, commissioners. My name is Dale Mullin. I live at 411 Saddlebrook Lane in Naples. I’m here today as founder and president of Warrior Homes of Collier, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting the needs of veterans and their families – with a focus on housing, mental health and education. 

The vision of Warrior Homes of Collier is to “ensure that no veteran in need is left behind in the county.” For decades, veterans who’ve served our country with dignity and honor have grappled with higher rates of mental illness, substance abuse and homelessness, and are at increased risk of suicide. The problem is particularly acute here in Collier County, where housing prices are among the nation’s highest. Veterans commit suicide at twice the national average at 19 per day and are 50 percent more likely to become homeless. We have documented 51 homeless veterans in Collier County as of the last official PIT count in 2023. 

Over the past several years, Warrior Homes of Collier has secured four properties that are used to house local veterans:  

-Alpha House, which is a short-term, transitional residence for those in recovery from substance use disorders and other mental health disorders such as PTSD and TBI.  

-Bravo and Charlie Houses provide long-term supportive housing, for 6 seniors on fixed incomes who receive rent subsidies based on income, and;  

-Delta House, a supportive housing complex with 10 apartments for up to 20 veterans, both men and women.  

In addition to getting veterans off the streets, we connect our residents with support services such as mental health counseling and peer support through the David Lawrence Centers, as well as educational opportunities, including college scholarships.   

Thanks to the generous support of private donors and philanthropic groups in our community, our goal of ending veterans’ homelessness in Collier County gets closer to reality with each passing day. The day that we end veteran homelessness in Collier County we can truly say we are a “veteran-friendly community.” 

I also stand before you today as a veteran, having served a year in Vietnam and a total of three years on active-duty service in the U.S. Army. 

At Warrior Homes of Collier, we commend the county for pursuing projects in support of the men and women who served this country with duty and honor and applaud your efforts to make Collier the most veteran-friendly county in the state. 

Our concern, though, is that the immediate needs of this vulnerable population aren’t being met – and that this particular project likely won’t come to fruition for years. It also doesn’t benefit current county residents in need of additional assistance. 

In the last four years we have housed a total of 65 veterans in our Warrior Homes and are now at full capacity. We have a waiting list for prospective new residents. We continue to provide emergency assistance through our homeless prevention programs, including rent and utility payment support and food cards. 

We can’t do it alone. Through our efforts we have organized and lead a coalition of 17 local organizations all committed to a single mission that “ no veteran in need is left behind in Collier County.” The shortage of local housing for veterans is a community-wide crisis that requires leadership, advocacy, innovation and investment from the public and private sectors, organizations and individuals. The Collier Community Foundation, which Warrior Homes proudly counts among our supporters, concurs, having identified homelessness and seniors as a top local priority in its 2023 Community Needs Assessment.  

Our approach isn’t just the right thing to do – it will save taxpayers money. 

Consider the statistics. At Warrior Homes, it costs about $30 a day to house a resident and at St. Matthews House $55. If those homeless veterans end up in the Collier County Jail, those costs increase to more than $200 a day. If they are Baker Acted at David Lawrence, the costs are even higher, at $1,200 per day. 

These brave warriors need the support of our community and deserve safe, clean and accessible housing, as well as greater support with mental health and wellness.  

Warrior Homes of Collier urges Collier County to expedite the process of allocating sales tax surcharge revenue or other sources of revenue toward its committed projects, including the state veterans nursing home. We also urge, encourage and challenge the county, businesses, philanthropic groups and private citizens who care about veterans to invest in proven local resources that can deliver help today. Every day’s delay is a day that more and more veterans are at risk of falling through the cracks.  

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