Serve With Me: Montana Veterans Foundation’s Willis Cruse House Helping Those Who’ve Served

By DESIREE BAIN

“Serving Those Who Served.” What does that mean? Am I a waitress or housekeeper to ex-military individuals?

No, I most certainly am not.

I am a mid-30s gal sitting at a desk in an office inside a transitional home for homeless Veterans. At this desk, I write grants, pay the bills, pay the taxes, and pay the few employees we are able to staff.

Although this portion of my job is mega important, it is honestly not very exciting. The part of my job that keeps me here is SO MUCH more rewarding.

I meet veterans who are down on their luck, sometimes by their own doing, sometimes not. I meet real people, who deserve to be treated as such.

These wonderful folks I get to meet have barriers keeping them from being self-sufficient and independent.

So, what is a “barrier?” There are debts, addictions, disabilities, unidentified and non-medicated mental health issues, medical issues, unaligned benefits, strained relationships. Sound familiar?

They should. These are real struggles that affect all of us.

I get to meet people, help them realize and vocalize their barriers, and then help them find creative ways to overcome them.

This transitional home where I work provides all of the necessary things we humans need to survive — like a bed to sleep in, food to nourish, hygiene items and accessibility to showers and laundry.

We provide computers, Internet, and phone lines to encourage communication and connection to the outside world.

We have Case Management and tons of resources. Pretty basic stuff right?

But more happens here within these walls.

This is where vets go from “SURVIVE to THRIVE”!

We are a family, ever-changing, but a family nonetheless. We collaborate on meals and activities, and we share our stories. We work together to help each other. We build friendships, based on important things like honesty, trust, and accountability.

So, when I sit at my desk with a Veteran resident, I am sitting with a new friend. I listen with an open mind and consider options, acting from the heart.

I am a real friend who will do anything I can to help while holding feet to the fire.

For the past 16 years, Montana Veterans Foundation: The Willis Cruse House has operated under a per diem grant issued by the National VA. This funding source ended September 2018.

I will continue to write grants and explore other funding opportunities, connections, and partnerships.

These endeavors take time, which is a luxury that we do not have. I am in the community, asking for sponsorship.
We all owe it to the men and women who so honorably made sacrifices for their country and their people.

They fought for our rights, now we fight for theirs.

I have faith that the community will step up and support this program that has aided over 900 Veterans, with a 95-percent rate of successful transition.

We cannot let another program disappear from our community. We cannot let the doors close on a house and program that has the capability and capacity to continue aiding our country’s heroes.

The time to help is now. MSN

Desiree Bain is the Director of Montana Veterans Foundation: The Willis Cruse House.  The Willis Cruse House is a 12-bed transition home for homeless veteran men. Located at 1819, 1112 Leslie Ave, Helena, MT 59601  (406) 449-7666

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