SEYMOUR, Ind. - A Seymour business owner is asking the community for help with his efforts to open a new shelter for homeless military veterans.
Bob Liter, who owns D’s Diner near Seymour Municipal Airport, recently started offering 20-percent discounts to all active military, veterans and public safety employees. Liter, who is an Army veteran himself, said the discounts were a way to honor his cousin, Kentucky National Guard Sgt. Darrin Potter. Potter was killed in action in Iraq in 2003. Liter says his cousin was the first Kentucky National Guard member to be killed in action since the Vietnam War.
“He had one month left on his enlistment, and he was killed in an ambush in Iraq,” Liter said. “And I thought how can I honor him?”
A couple months after starting the meal discounts and free delivery for military members and veterans, Liter’s idea grew into a larger one. He soon got the idea to open a new shelter in the Seymour area for military veterans who are homeless. The goal was to turn the veterans toward hope and away from despair.
“Twenty-two veterans a day, almost one an hour, commit suicide,” Liter said. “And yet we’re able to get grants for bicycle trails?”
Suicide and homelessness continue to be a growing problem for America’s veterans. National studies have shown that one in every five homeless American is a military veteran. Liter and other veterans he’s working with want to do what they can to turn those numbers around.
Aside from housing homeless veterans, Liter say he also wants to connect them with resources to get them back on a positive path.
“These guys, we’ll take them to trade schools,” Liter said. “We’ll have vans to take them out, get them trained, get them back on their feet and back in the workforce.”
The problem was, Liter didn’t have a building or resources for a new shelter facility. Since D’s Diner is in such close proximity to Seymour Municipal Airport, he approached members of the Airport Authority for help.
“Is there anything we can do out here,” Liter asked. “Do you have any empty buildings that we can open up a shelter for homeless veterans?”
The airport didn’t have any empty buildings to use, but the members of the Airport Authority offered to help Liter in any way they could.
Not long after that, another area business owner offered Liter a discounted price on a building for sale near the airport. That seemed to be the first big break Liter needed. The building has 7,000 square feet of open space with 1,200 feet of office space.
“This is a perfect location,” Liter said. “It’s a non-residential area. We won’t have any problems with people in their homes saying we don’t want this shelter.”
Liter says he is also looking at a couple other locations, but is currently in negotiations to purchase the 7,000 square foot building.
But even if the deal goes through, Liter says he will need a lot of help getting the building ready. He says he’ll need to install bathrooms, showers and a kitchen. He’ll also need to work on preparing bunk beds in areas designated for men and women.
Liter is asking for help from any contractors who want to donate their time, and any private donors who want to contribute to the effort.
“The Mayor of Seymour and State Representative Jim Lucas are going to help us fill out the paperwork for federal funding and grants that we need,” Liter said. “But in the meantime, I’m not waiting on that, I’m moving forward.”
Liter hopes to have the shelter ready and open before the end of this year. He hasn’t officially chosen a name for the shelter. But he is leaning toward the “Darrin Potter Welcome Home.”
“These guys deserve to be taken care of,” Liter said. “They gave for their country and now they’re out there lost. And we need to find them and we need to get them back on their feet.”
If you would like to help Bob Liter in his efforts to open the new shelter, you can contact him at D’s Diner in Seymour. That number is (812) 523-3395.