Above: Last year, Wounded Warrior Homes purchased this house on Mahogany Drive in Oceanside to provide a home to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. A year later, the organization has nearly finished its outside remodel of the home. Photo by Samantha Taylor
OCEANSIDE — Wounded Warrior Homes, a local veteran service organization, recently celebrated the near-complete remodel of its newest fleet of homes housing veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Though Wounded Warrior Homes only just held its grand opening for the Oceanside house on June 5, neighbors of the home on Mahogany Drive are no strangers to the organization or to the four men who have already lived there for a year.
The organization purchased the home in June of last year, but it wasn’t until this June that the home was ready to show off, according to Executive Director Mia Roseberry.
“When we moved in there was no backyard,” Roseberry said.
During the house’s grand opening, the new, pristine backyard served as an inviting spot for cocktails and conversation.
Other work the housed needed included a new paint job on the outside as well as a new roof, support beam and electric panel. Roseberry noted most of the work was external as the inside of the house was in good shape.
Roseberry said organization received a $20,000 grant from Supervisor Bill Horn and another $46,000 in donations to fund the home’s fix-up.
The neighbors are also excited about the Oceanside house and its residents, according to Roseberry.
“The family across the street is constantly asking them over for dinner, bringing them food, taking them fishing,” she said. “The neighbors are really glad they’re here.”
The house’s external remodel as well as its drug- and alcohol-free environment are additional benefits to the neighborhood.
“My focus in a neighborhood is not to be a detriment, it’s to be an improvement,” Roseberry said. “We want to improve whatever property we move into and make it an active, viable part of the community.”
Above all, the organization’s three homes — the one in Oceanside, another in Vista and a third in Escondido — are to benefit the men who live there. There are 13 total, all of whom are men in their late 20s and early 30s. Currently, the program only houses single men.
Roseberry, who founded the Wounded Warrior Homes in 2009 with her husband, explained that many of the men were living out of their cars, unable to use their GI Bill funds for an apartment. Several of those men didn’t have families to return to or had families fall apart.
In some situations, “the family doesn’t know how to support them or know what to do, so the thing that we all come to when we’re frustrated and don’t know what to do is to say, ‘It’s time for you to go,’” Roseberry said.
The VA or other veteran service organizations refer many of the men who live in the organization’s homes.
Besides providing shelter to veterans, other services the organization offers include a food pantry, a service dog food program and general assistance for the veterans, such as giving them rides to appointments.
Stacy Pauley, program director of the organization, keeps up with the vets’ daily plans through email and meets with them weekly on Thursdays at the org’s San Marcos office.
“I always call them my kids,” Stacy said.
Assistant Director Gene Jennett, a veteran himself, does “a little bit of everything” for the organization.
“I’m kind of a fixer,” he said.
With a background in health care and as a former Navy corpsman, Jennett began volunteering seven years ago and has stuck around to take care of his soldiers, sailors and marines.
Everyone, including the organization’s founder, remain hands-on with the veterans. It also helps that Roseberry lives close to the Vista location, Pauley to the Escondido house and Jennett down the street from the Oceanside home. If one of the men needs anything at any time, staff is there to call.
According to Roseberry, Wounded Warrior Homes is in talks with local builders and the city of San Marcos to potentially acquire land and build a campus where its services can be consolidated. That way, far more veterans could stay and access the organization’s services right on site.
In the future, Roseberry hopes to make it possible for families to live there as well.
When Geno Gaunt, 31, a veteran U.S. Army medic who has PTSD, first got into the Wounded Warrior Homes program, he was “in a bad way” with alcohol. Now, he’s finishing up his time at Palomar College before transferring to Cal State University San Marcos to pursue nursing. He also enjoys hobbies like scuba diving too.
Gaunt, who lives in the Vista home, said the organization has really helped him to get to where he is today.
Roseberry said she is merely pointing the guys in the right direction, providing them with the tools necessary and giving them a safe place to rest at night.
Samantha Taylor covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son