A Seymour business owner doesn’t have all of the answers for how to help veterans who find themselves homeless.
But as a veteran himself, Robert Liter has the heart and desire to do something. He also has an idea.
Liter, owner of D’s Diner in Freeman Field, is trying to find a way to open a shelter in Seymour to provide a roof over the heads of those who have served their country and now are struggling to make ends meet.
“As a military Army veteran, I would like to address a problem that I’m sure not only troubles me but troubles all veterans,” he said. “We should all be concerned with 22 veterans a day committing suicide and the fact that one in five homeless Americans is a veteran.”
He recently wrote a letter asking Seymour Municipal Airport manager Don Furlow and the Seymour Airport Authority if a vacant hangar or other building located near the airport could be renovated into a shelter.
“This is the perfect location, as it would not be in a residential housing area,” he said.
Besides housing, Liter said he would be willing to provide daily meals to veterans through his restaurant.
Furlow, also a veteran, said he wishes he could help, but there is no property available at the airport at this time.
“I would be happy to help him in any way that I could, but I just don’t see a fit here at the field,” Furlow said. “You would have to change the zoning if we even had something.”
Authority member Scott Davis said if the airport had an old empty barracks building, it would be a different story.
“But we don’t have any structure that we own that’s suited for that,” he said.
Furlow said by getting the word out and sharing the idea, Liter might find support and resources elsewhere in the community.
Although the number of homeless veterans in Seymour isn’t overwhelming, Liter said the facility could be a regional shelter, serving a larger area.
“There are over 1,200 homeless veterans in Louisville, Kentucky, alone, and that’s not that far away,” he said.
Liter has the support of local veterans organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 and American Legion Post 89 in Seymour.
Daniel Boone, past commander of the VFW, said being a veteran is part of being a family.
“Everything starts with an idea,” Boone said. “He asked for some support, and we came out here to see if this is feasible, and if it’s not feasible, we understand, but we’re always looking to help our brothers.”
Liter said a shelter could provide more than just a place to stay.
“I have spoken to our veterans here, and they said they would donate their time to speak with veterans at the shelter about their time in the service and let them know they are not alone,” Liter said.
Part of the shelter would be a recreation room where veterans could visit and play cards and games with each other and with volunteers, Liter said.
Authority member William Blaisdell said the most important way to help homeless veterans is to “help get them back into society someway,” especially through job training and finding places that want to hire veterans.
Liter knows it will take people from different areas — local government, businesses, service organizations and private donations — working together, but he believes there are enough people who care about the welfare of veterans to make it happen.
When it comes to funding, Liter said he has seen cities obtain grants for millions of dollars to build things like walking/bike paths and parks.
“I’m sure the mayor of Seymour as well as others in town can apply for a similar grant to house our veterans,” he said. “I know businesses in town would donate for this cause.”