Posted December 5, 2016 | 1:08 PM

Operation: REVEILLE Offers New Day for Homeless Veterans

Hillsborough County’s initiative is a leader among programs for homeless Veterans

Twenty-five homeless Veterans moved into apartments on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, and about an equal number are on a path to getting housing as part of this year's Operation Reveille in Hillsborough County.

It was the national event's third year in Hillsborough County, which has taken the eliminate-homelessness effort to a new level of success, serving as an example for the rest of the country. Here, Operation Reveille is a collaboration among governments, businesses, faith-based groups, nonprofit agencies, and hundreds of individual volunteers.

It's that combined muscle of the public and private sectors that makes the County's program so powerful, said Ed Jennings, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "It has changed the course of homelessness in this community."

The mission: Do what it takes to dramatically improve the lives of military Veterans who, despite demonstrated efforts, have not found housing, jobs, health services, transportation, and other basic needs worthy of people who have sacrificed for their country. Launched in St. Louis, Operation Reveille now takes place on or around Veterans Day in about a dozen communities throughout the nation.

"This isn't a big deal, in regard to what we have done for them. They've done so much for us," Jennings said. "The one thing we can do is make sure they have a place to call home."

In Hillsborough County, the goal is to find housing and services for 50 homeless Veterans. Some Veterans leave Operation Reveille's staging area - a terminal at Port Tampa Bay - and immediately move into fully-furnished apartments. Others begin the process - paperwork, training, counseling - of preparing to move into living quarters.

Darrell Speights, a former U.S. Army field artillery soldier, was overwhelmed and thankful to be among those who received an apartment on Veterans Day. The first thing he expected to do upon entering his new home? "Probably get on my knees and kiss the floor," he said.




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