A veteran and his family told Local Four News this year the holiday season will have a new meaning for them.
They have a place to live after struggling with homelessness.
That help came from Humility Homes and Services.
It launched the Veterans Transitional Housing Program at the beginning of October.
Money for it came from the VA Grant and Per Diem program to address homelessness among former military members and their families.
So far, it’s placed two families into apartments.
They can stay there for two years while working toward getting their own place.
Tony Haynes, Megan Nelson and their soon to be three-year-old daughter have faced months living out of their car.
Then in September, they learned about a new opportunity.
Now, they don’t just have a place to lay their heads at night, but more importantly a sense of normalcy for their toddler.
Tony Haynes said, “Grow up as a kid.”
It’s a good life for Haynes and Nelson when their young daughter has room to play.
Nelson said, “Gave us access to a lot of toys that we could have for free.”
But before they got the keys to their new home, it’s been a difficult few years.
That’s when a home was often their truck.
Haynes said, “I remember we were living in a tent for a little bit.”
Now they’re marking a month and a half in their three-bedroom townhouse.
Nelson said, “Fully furnished, brand-new washer and dryer in it. They gave us cleaning supplies. They had beds in all the rooms. She even had a toddler bed in her room.”
It’s operated by Humility Homes and Services.
The new program aimed at veterans with at least one kid under 18 years old.
But it goes beyond helping them afford a place to live.
Haynes said, “Come out on the weekends, on their time off to actually sit down and talk with you. Find out how you’re doing what you need.”
Humility Service Coordinator Mica Frandsen said, “Completely stable before exiting the program. So just making sure that they are employed and that they do have some sort of income.”
Haynes, who served two years in the U.S. Army, said one of the most challenging parts of breaking the cycle is taking that first step.
Haynes said, “They don’t want to knock that pride down, but there comes a point where you actually have to suck it up and move because you don’t want your family growing up like that.”
Now Haynes and Nelson are working toward life after the program, permanent home and a better life for their daughter.
Nelson said, “Save enough money over the two years and buy us a place.”
The program can support up to five families at a time.
Humility relies on some of their existing programs including their warehouse and the VALOR program from veterans, along with the VA and other area partners to help support those in the new program.
Each family can use the housing service up to three times in their life.
Local Four News went deeper to find out how many veterans are homeless in the two-state region.
We obtained the 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report prepared by Housing and Urban Development for Congress.
It shows there are 171 homeless veterans in Iowa.
That population is higher in Illinois at about 864.
Those numbers are down from previous years in both states. However, there were more homeless veterans nationwide last year.