Lifestyle

Bremerton couple opens Veterans Bunkhouse to help homeless vets

Dennis and Mickie Olds started the Veterans Bunkhouse in Bremerton in February. There are currently three men staying in the two-bedroom apartment and the Olds would like to open more bunkhouses throughout the county. - Rachel Brant/staff photo
Dennis and Mickie Olds started the Veterans Bunkhouse in Bremerton in February. There are currently three men staying in the two-bedroom apartment and the Olds would like to open more bunkhouses throughout the county.
— image credit: Rachel Brant/staff photo

Employers tend to hire people who have home mailing addresses and telephone numbers.

That’s where Dennis and Mickie Olds can help.

“You need these things for someone to take a good look at you,” Dennis said. “But here they can say, ‘I live at 2509 Trenton Ave.’”

The Olds started the Veterans Bunkhouse in February and are devoted to helping homeless veterans get back on their feet.

“I said if I can ever do anything, this is what I’d like to do,” Dennis said.

Dennis, a Vietnam veteran, first learned about homeless veterans in 1989 when he spent time in a hospital after breaking his neck in a construction accident. He heard veterans talking about homelessness and realized it was a growing problem.

“In the state of Washington, there’s 10,000 homeless veterans,” Dennis said. “It doesn’t take much to get there (homeless) and when you’re there it’s hard to get out.”

Dennis and Mickie rented a two-bedroom apartment in a house across the street from their Trenton Avenue home and decided to call it the Veterans Bunkhouse.

With the help of their “bunkhouse buddies,” they furnished the place with beds, a sofa, televisions, tables and kitchen utensils.

“We furnish it right down to the plates, silverware and linens,” Dennis said.

“So what we provide is pretty much everything,” Mickie added.

The bunkhouse can house four men at a time and three men are currently living there.

“Most of these guys come directly off the street and now the three of them are working,” Dennis said. “They need to be actively working, seeking employment or going to school to stay here.”

The Veterans Bunkhouse is a clean and sober house and people are referred to the home by local organizations such as the VFW and American Legion. Veterans can stay at the bunkhouse as long as it takes for them to get back on their feet.

The men are required to keep the bunkhouse clean and take care of the yard.

“And they’re doing a great job,” Mickie said. “Perhaps these habits will carry on after this.”

The bunkhouse residents even help each other out from time to time by giving one another rides to and from work.

“They’re dependent on each other. They do a lot of interaction as far as helping each other out and getting employment,” Dennis said. “The camaraderie is there. We’re a family here.”

Dennis checks in on the veterans from time to time to make sure they’re keeping the bunkhouse clean and regularly working or attending school. There is a list of bunkhouse rules and Dennis makes sure the veterans are getting along with one another.

“If there’s an issue, we want to approach it right away,” he said.

Dennis said he’d like to open other bunkhouses, including a women’s house, in the future, but it would take a lot more money to do that.

“We would love to have another house, but we’re already $8,000 in,” Dennis said.

“It’s been Dennis and I — our time, our money,” Mickie added. “It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.”

The Olds are working on certifying the Veterans Bunkhouse as a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

For more information on the Veterans Bunkhouse or to make a donation, call Dennis at (360) 782-0332.

“I’ll set up an appointment for them to come check out the place so they know what they’re donating to,” Dennis said.

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