The magic of The Journey Home (TJH) is that its development was not bankrolled by a single individual or organization. The initial concept of a Veteran shelter, and now our current Mission and Vision of today was not designed or conceptualized by a few, but instead by a community of individuals with a love and passion to help Veterans. In early 2013, Randolph County leaders, community leaders and Indiana residents came together for the purpose of giving back and saving the lives of Veterans who are homeless and at-risk; experience suicidal tendencies; or who are lost and feeling hopeless. They developed the social and cultural awareness that there was something that Randolph County, East Central Indiana and Western Ohio could do to make a difference. Led initially by Linda Dehaven, Michael Kennedy and supported by many others, the concept of a 501(c)(3), nonprofit, Randolph County Veterans Shelter, Inc., was applied for, granted and a Board of Directors established.
Doing business as The Journey Home, a Veterans’ residential shelter was TJH’ startup program. The space for this facility was once a youth residential center and was sitting vacant. The building, owned by Randolph County, Indiana was offered to TJH for rent by the County Commissioners at a generously reduced rate. With five spacious rooms; a fully equipped kitchen; a large dining area; laundry room; offices and a day room; the mission of TJH became a reality. Operating solely on private donations, and after a little bit of remodeling, the first Veterans were sheltered by TJH in March of 2014. Veterans could stay in the shelter free of charge for up to two years. Accountability to house rules and structure were strictly enforced, however Veterans received limited access to VA and Non-VA services in this initial program model.
Like all grassroot projects, the early days were filled with difficulty and startup challenges. TJH experienced breakdowns in their programming and business models, and struggled with organizational development. At a low point in the early months of 2015, when the facility doors were closing, a new set of community leaders stepped in and took over. The Board of Directors were reorganized; a new Mission, Vision and Core Values were established; and new and important connections with individuals from the VA who wanted to help were established. The new Board of Directors – Claudia Thornburg, Steve Croyle, Gary Girton, Jim Hufford, Eldon Solomon and Sally Faulkenburg – rallied community support and government resources, and hired a new Executive Director. Later that year, October 2015, TJH entered into a contract with the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System. This partnership offered TJH a bed-per-diem rate for every bed filled, new and important measures of program accountability, and a networking relationship that linked TJH and the VA’s homeless services together.
What makes TJH’s vision so incredible? It has to be the number of local, regional and national communities that work in partnership with our staff and Board of Directors lending support in our mission to “End Veteran Homelessness”. Everything about our mission is dependent upon linking Veterans to their community and the community to their Veterans. This core value has both fertilized and watered the roots of TJH since 2013, and will continue to nourish this mission for years to come.