David Peacock will take a road trip today.
The therapeutic director of the new Valor Home shelter for homeless veterans will drive to Tiffin to pick up the 30th resident of the shelter, bringing it to full capacity.
“Everything we do is done with love and kindness,” said Peacock.
On Wednesday night, Peacock and 300 people including 29 residents of the $1.4 million shelter gathered for the grand opening of the facility that opened five years after it was first proposed.
“We just walk at their pace and treat them like human beings,” said Peacock, 53, a veteran of the British Marines.
He was referring to the operating philosophy at Valor Home, where residents go through creative arts psychotherapy and other treatments and can stay up to two years.
The average resident’s stay at the shelter, Peacock said, is expected to be nine months to one year.
The facility opened in early July and has been adding a few residents a week in reaching the 30-person total. The Tiffin veteran, 45, served in the Gulf War and has post-traumatic stress disorder. There is no veterans facility in his northwest Ohio city.
Eventually, Peacock hopes a horse barn will be built to offer therapy on the site off East Waterloo Road in South Akron.
The Department of Veterans Affairs first denied a 2009 request for funding from a committee that had formed the year before.
But in 2010, the VA approved a $900,000 grant and the Federal Home Loan Bank contributed $474,000.
Valor Home is operated by Family & Community Services Inc. of Portage County, which also operates Freedom House, a 14-bed shelter for homeless veterans in Kent.
Volunteers from Habitat for Humanity of Summit County provided much of the labor during construction.
A thrift store to support Valor Home was opened this summer at 763 W. Market St. in Akron.
The home is named for Harry Donovan Jr., a Vietnam veteran and the son of Harry Donovan Sr., a World War II Navy veteran, who has been a donor for many programs that assist veterans in the Akron area including Valor Home.
The opening of the shelter comes as the Obama administration set a goal of eliminating veteran homelessness by 2015 and committed nearly $1 billion to the cause.
One veteran, Eddie, 60, has lived at the shelter for 10 weeks. He said, “The will of God brought me here.” The shelter asks that veterans’ last names be withheld for privacy reasons.
After Eddie had to leave his sister’s home in a family dispute, he said, he landed at Valor Home.
“This has been a revival for me,” said the Army veteran who served in Germany during the Vietnam era. “I have been reborn.”
Summit County Executive Russ Pry called the new shelter “an amazing project.”
Many volunteers came together, Pry said, “to really work for the veterans of our community … We are going to see a real difference in terms of services and quality of life for our veterans in our community.”
Susan Fuehrer, medical center director at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, was the main speaker at the event.
Before her speech, she walked through the shelter.
“One veteran showed me there was no lint in the clothes dryer,” she said. Another, she said, showed her how clean the bathrooms and bedrooms were.
“My message is to thank the community for remembering our nation’s heroes, our veterans,” she said.
She said she wants to “make sure they have a safe place to live and that we give them every opportunity to have a job and be a productive citizen of our United States.”
The shelter is at 1121 Exeter Road. For information, call 330-773-7000 or go online to www.valorhome.org.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.