TAMPA, Fla. — A Manatee County nonprofit is renovating 50-year-old trailer homes into new homes for homeless veterans.
Thomas Walsh is meeting up with some friends.
They all have one thing in common: they served and protected our country. Walsh served in the Army for 11 years in the Vietnam War.
“Sent to Vietnam in 1969 as a combat engineer,” he said.
And all of them live here in this neighborhood at Pescara Lakes in Bradenton.
“The way we first met was they had the opening of his house, he came down to the dedication,” he said.
Coming together in the same place because of similar experiences.
All three were at risk of living in substandard to unsafe housing and for Walsh, it was because of unsafe living conditions beyond what he could afford to fix.
“The place started deteriorating pretty bad. There were major issues: the flooring falling in, the central air breaking,” he said.
It wasn’t until he connected with the nonprofit, Our Next Mission, to get an affordable place to live.
“They had a preacher come out, put his hand on the building, and bless the place, which almost put me in tears,” he said.
The organization gives the veterans a fully furnished trailer home. The only expenses the tenant needs to take care of is the lot rental, which is estimated around $800 to $900 dollars a month at this location.
“I’m just beside myself. I wake up every day here, and I’m happy,” he said.
One thing he was surprised by was the custom accommodations they built for him.
“Since I had a stroke, what I’d be able to do is handle the bars and stuff they put up,” he said.
Walsh had a stroke after being exposed to Agent Orange in the war.
“I used to dig up land mines on the road in Vietnam,” he said.
The non-profit renovates around 3 trailers a year, spending a total average of $50,000 to $75,000 a year on trailers.
Greg Kisella, the President and CEO of Our Next Mission, says it’s a bigger need now because of the increasing costs of rent and housing crisis.
“Whatever that veteran needs to make this forever home, we give to them. If it’s knives and forks, coffee makers, toasters, some of these guys don’t have anything,” he said.
It’s helping veterans like Walsh get back on his feet after having nowhere else to turn to.
“I’m blessed. I can’t tell you how blessed,” he said.
The organization only started five years ago and already has helped renovate trailers for free for nine veterans so far that meet the requirements. And hope to fill two units that are currently available to a veteran in need.