Wounded Warriors of Collier County is transforming the lives of Veterans struggling to transition to civilian life. Its vision, “No Veteran Left Behind,” is to assist the needs of Veterans and their families, with the focus on education, housing, and mental health.
Wounded Warriors has helped many Veterans get back on their feet since 2010, including Collier County resident Mitch Watson, who served four years in the Navy.
Like many Veterans, Watson struggled after leaving military life where he had grown used to the discipline. He later battled drug and alcohol abuse ultimately leaving him homeless many times throughout a 10 year period.
“It was sort of like a rollercoaster ride,” said Watson. “There were times I was doing well, and periods I was doing very poorly.”
Six months ago, Watson was committed to turning his life around. “At 53 years old, I could see an expiration date. I had never thought of that before,” said Watson.
As a Navy Veteran, Watson was eligible to move into the Wounded Warriors transitional housing, “Alpha House.”
Wounded Warriors provides Alpha House residents with free room and board and homeless Veterans a chance to improve their well-being and focus on their futures.
“It has allowed me to take the time I needed to work on my recovery. I didn’t have to worry about the expense of regular rent, where I was going to take a shower, or how I was going to eat,” Watson said.
Once each Veteran secures employment, Wounded Warriors uses a formulate for payment of rent.
While living at Wounded Warriors, Watson was recommended for a full-time position as Outreach Coordinator for the Hunger and Homeless Coalition of Collier County. The full-time job has provided him with financial and emotional benefits.
“It’s been a wonderful thing that has happened to me,” said Watson.
Working at the local homeless coalition provides Watson the opportunity to focus on somebody other than himself.
“For many addicts and alcoholics, selfishness is what gets you there in the first place,” he said.“ When you can spend your time helping others and giving back to folks on the streets, you have a greater opportunity in succeeding with the program yourself.”
Now, it’s Watson’s goal to get involved with organizations like Wounded Warriors.
Having lived in Alpha House for just four months, Watson plans on moving out of the house in a few weeks to make room for someone else who needs it.
“Someone deserves the chance that I was given,” he said. “Now I am in a financial position where I can start looking to rent my own place.”
Watson is appreciative of all the organizations within the community who helped him get to where he is today including: Wounded Warriors of Collier County, Crossroads at David Lawrence Center, and the Hunger and Homeless Coalition.
Visit the Wounded Warriors website at:woundwarriorsofcolliercounty.com and learn more about how you can help by volunteering or providing financial support.