Warrior Homes of Collier dedicates Patriot Garden Courtyard at new Delta House

Warrior Homes of Collier dedicates Patriot Garden Courtyard at new Delta House

Some wore hearing aids and relied on walkers. Others displayed neck tattoos and five-o’clock shadows. Physical appearance aside, each was united by the far stronger bond — forged in battle and brotherhood — of military service on behalf of their country.

From veterans of World War II and Vietnam to those who fought 21st century wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, supporters of the nonprofit Warrior Homes of Collier gathered Wednesday in East Naples for a courtyard dedication ceremony at its recently opened Delta House.

The 20-bed, 10-unit apartment complex is the first of the organization’s four local residences to serve both male and female veterans.

“Every veteran deserves a nice, clean and safe place to live,” said Dale Mullin, a retired business executive and Vietnam veteran who founded Warrior Homes of Collier a decade ago. “That’s what we provide — a hand up, not a handout.”

The Patriot Garden Courtyard dedication honored multiple donors whose sponsorship of the apartments, benches, commemorative bricks and flagpole helped support the Naples-based organization.

Those tributes included a courtyard bench dedicated to the memory of Zachary Ludwig, a 35-year-old former Marine who was shot to death on New Year’s Eve 2023 by a former colleague at the Port of the Islands resort. Ludwig’s parents were among the 75 invited guests.

For Steve and Kim Hayes, whose son Taylor died on the streets of Naples in 2016 after struggling with homelessness and substance abuse, the work of Warrior Homes provides a vital lifeline for former soldiers that wasn’t available to their son.

Taylor, a turret gunner in the Army’s 82nd Airborne, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder from a traumatic brain injury suffered in combat and while on a training mission, his parents said.

“This brings hope and dignity to veterans,” said Kim Hayes, an active member of the American Gold Star Mothers, a support group for military moms. “Our son really could have benefitted from the work here to get veterans back on their feet.”

The dedication occurred just weeks after members of the Hunger & Homeless Coalitions of Collier and Lee fanned out across the two counties to estimate the size and make-up of the local homeless population.

The 2023 count identified more than 700 people living on the street in Collier — an increase of over 50 percent from the previous year, and one attributed to increased displacement after Hurricane Ian. That included nearly 200 seniors (a nearly 400 percent increase) and 51 veterans (a decline from the 80 to 90 homeless vets identified prior to the opening of Warrior Homes).

Beyond providing a roof over their heads, Warrior Homes of Collier also connects veterans with support services such as mental health counseling and peer support through the David Lawrence Centers, as well as educational opportunities, including college scholarships.

The first of its facilities, Alpha House, is a short-term, transitional residence for those in recovery from substance abuse, with sliding-scale rent based on income. The Bravo and Charlie Houses are set aside for seniors on fixed incomes who are no longer in the workforce and receive rent subsidies to defray their expenses, which is known as supportive housing.

Warrior Home of Collier 10th Anniversary
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