Providing Hope for Homeless Veterans
Bremer County Community Foundation
March 27, 2017
In 2010, Neal Jarnagin, current Director at Bremer County Veterans Affairs and Executive Director of Rally Point Cedar Valley Veterans, met George, a homeless 28-year-old veteran who had walked from Columbia, Missouri to Iowa on his way to Alaska. George had bounced between organizations, attempting to find support and shelter. Soon, with the help of Jarnagin, also a veteran, George was able to find assistance and now, at the age of 32, is living locally in a house of his own.
Jarnagin and Bremer County Veterans Affairs work with George led to the creation of Rally Point Cedar Valley Veterans, a Waverly-based nonprofit and its homeless and transitional shelter for veterans, LZ Phoenix House. Rally Point Cedar Valley Veterans empowers veterans to become financially self-sufficient by providing safe, transitional housing for active duty service members, veterans, and their family members. The shelter can support veterans for up to 90 days and provides them with the valuable time necessary to get back on track.
At the time of its opening, LZ Phoenix House was the only transitional home for veterans in Iowa. Through a partnership with Waverly Homes, Rally Point Cedar Valley Veterans is using the current home free of rent, only paying utilities and upkeep.
Unfortunately, George is just one of many veterans who return home from service and do not have the resources they need to acclimate back into civilian culture. Consequently, this population then has a greater chance of struggling with untreated mental illnesses and substance abuse problems which create even bigger barriers socially and economically.
Seeing the critical need and uniqueness of the services Rally Point Cedar Valley Veterans provides, the Bremer County Community Foundation, Readlyn Community Fund, and Waverly Community Fund all made grants to the organization totaling $5,500.
“The grants will help tremendously with operation expenses and making this a more usable space for everything we need,” said Jarnagin. “The community has been very supportive. Everything you see has been donated.”
Currently, 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Rally Point Cedar Valley Veterans is working to change this, one veteran at a time, by giving them the tools to be successful.
“The long-term goal is for self-sustainability for when they leave here. They will have every tool they need and know who to call and where to get help,” said Jarnagin. “They have to be active while they are here, but when they come back at the end of the day, this is a home.”
This home setting is key to the agencies success according to board member Brent Steere. “It doesn’t seem like a home. Two of us on the board are Vietnam veterans. It is tough to see any veteran homeless. It breaks my heart.”
Rally Point Cedar Valley Veterans has long-term goals aimed at ending homelessness among local veterans. To provide a permanent source of income and long-term stability to meet those goals, the agency recently created the Rally Point Cedar Valley Veterans Endowment Fund with the Bremer County Community Foundation.