Homeless Veterans Need Your Help
What is The Homefront and Harkness House?
The Homefront is an initiative to address the needs of Veterans, including those returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, who are experiencing homelessless. Harkness House is the key component to this effort. It's a house, a refuge for veterans who have nowhere to go and need support and reconnection.
Veterans can live at the house for up to two years as they address the causes of their homelessness. The house is divided into apartments where the men will live together and receive support from both trained staff and each other.
The Homefront's goals include:
Many groups and individuals have conducted fundraisers or have made outright contributions. Corporate donations and grants are also being sought.
If you would like to help, please consider telling a friend, holding a fundraiser or making a contribution right now.
Together, we can help those who sacrificed so much for us.
Naming Opportunities Still Available
You can be a permanent part of this important effort to support those who have served our country.
$15,000 to name an Apartment (4)
For more information, please contact
In Their Own Words
Hundreds of homeless veterans have come through Columbus House's doors since the shelter was opened in 1982. Our case managers work with the Veterans Administration to make sure that each of them receives the support he or she needs.
These are the stories of just a few veterans who came to Columbus House for help.
The salt and pepper hair is only a small clue that Bobby has been through a lot in his life. He was once an independent, driven man who somehow lost it all. But even after some difficult times, his eyes are youthful and compassionate.
So Bobby put his possessions in storage and began living on the streets. He was homeless from 1999 to 2006. He would sleep on the floor at his sister’s house some nights. The rest of the time, he usually slept under store fronts and outside churches.
Occasionally he stayed at either the Immanuel Baptist shelter or the Columbus House Overflow shelter.
“I lost all of my independence,” he said. “But I didn’t have a choice.”
Bobby was working at Labor Ready as a day laborer when an outreach worker tracked him down and referred him to Legion Woods. His name was put on a waiting list and he was soon accepted to be one of the original residents at Legion Woods. That was in 2006 and Bobby has lived at Legion Woods ever since.
Last year, Bobby was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia. He’s taking medication and living a safe, stable life.
“We’re all trying to make it better for ourselves,” he said. “It’s getting better for me.”
Bobby is currently looking for a part-time job to regain more of his independence and find his way “back to a productive life.”
“If there’s a way I can do it, I’ll do it,” he said. “I don’t want to depend on other people.”
Mr. Topaz is a living example of “it can happen to anyone.” He was a Certified Public Accountant at a major accounting firm. He went on to serve in the Navy, working his way up from seaman to Lieutenant in the Navy. And, in spite of his successes, he ended up at Columbus House.
Mr. Topaz grew up in Middletown, New York, and graduated from Iona College. From there, he found a job at a prestigious accounting firm in New York City. He went on to serve in the Navy from 1967 and 1972 and was stationed overseas in Newfoundland during the Vietnam War. After he was discharged from the military, he returned home and worked out of his firm’s Hartford office.
Then Mr. Topaz decided to strike out on his own. In 1991, he started his own CPA practice in Fairfield. He found himself burning out after working too many 100-hour weeks. Eventually, he sold the business to pursue another passion: books.
"It left me listless," he said. "I had no energy or desire to run the business properly." He wasn’t selling many books from the shop he owned in Fairfield.
"I had to rely on my own resources to keep the business open," he said, so the bills started to pile up. He couldn't keep up with his rent and was kicked out of his apartment.
The once-successful CPA found himself on the streets.
With nowhere else to go, Mr. Topaz made his way to Q-house, temporary shelter for the homeless at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Haven. When he had stayed the maximum time there, the VA referred him to Columbus House.
While the shelter wasn’t an ideal place to stay, “it was better than sleeping on the lawn somewhere,” he said.
Mr. Topaz worked his way through the services at Columbus House, from the emergency shelter to transitional housing on the second floor, and into the On The Move program on the 3rd floor.
He was assigned to Tony, a Columbus House case manager. Tony worked with Mr. Topaz to find him an apartment at Legion Woods where he has lived ever since.
Mr. Topaz collects his VA pension instead of social security because of the healthcare the VA provides. His depression is currently under control and he walks on the treadmill whenever he gets a chance.
Mr. Topaz spends his days writing on his 11 blogs (ranging from political topics to literary criticism to thoughts on operas), writing short stories and poems, listening to his music collection, reading books and working on his science fiction novel. He is also the President of the Tenant Organization at Legion Woods.
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William J. Benson
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Giacomo “Jack” Mordente
The Hon. Linda Schwartz
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