It was over coffee, when a group of Veteran activists, came up with the idea for a transitional home for homeless or at-risk Veterans. It would be a place, out of the elements, where Veterans could get the real support they needed and deserved. A home base, from which with dignity, homeless Veterans could seek employment, access medical and mental health resources, align benefits, and obtain any kind of sobriety support they needed.
Their inspiration came from a Vietnam Era Veteran, who was living in the mountains outside of Helena, MT. His name was Willis Cruse. He was alone, destitute, and only had his dog for companionship. He would walk miles to town and visit local café’s for free coffee that he loaded with sugar, in hopes that the calories would keep his body nourished until the next day. Willis wanted to better himself, and tried hard to do so. However, the barriers that kept him from gaining self-sufficiency were paramount. He was homeless, dirty, and had untreated medical and mental health issues. Willis often said that he felt he didn’t matter to anyone, and that no one would remember him if he was gone.
The questions were circling…
“What can we do to help our Veteran brothers and sisters?”
“What can we do about the rise in Veteran suicide?”
“Where can these deserving people get the help they need?”
“What is the ‘help’ they need?”
“How do they access the services they need, and have the time to prepare for self-sufficiency?”
The process of creating The Willis Cruse House (WCH) began in 1998. Five years later, because of immense community support and a VA grant, the doors opened. Still standing, and in full operation, The Willis Cruse House serves as a community based and enriched transitional home with a milieu of services for homeless (or those at risk of homelessness) Veteran men. WCH emphasizes and supports the ideation of establishing safe housing as a priority. WCH provides dynamic and purposeful case management incorporating tactics to reduce barriers while also focusing on increasing income and/or benefits leading to a sustained move to permanent housing.
The milieu of services provided at WCH include, but are not limited to:
- Case management
- Unrestricted access to self-serve kitchen and food pantry
- Unrestricted access to on-site clothing and hygiene product supplies
- Laundry facility
- Computer and internet access
- Appropriate recreation activities and outings
- Weekly house resident meetings
- Volunteer opportunities within the local community
- Access and transportation to AA & NA groups
- Life skills coaching
- Transportation to and from appointments
- VA & non-VA service referrals
- Recovery workshops (ie: woodshop, fly-tying, leather working, computer skill advancement classes, art classes).
We remember you Willis. You remain as a testament to the dedication to our mission.
Since its inception, over 900 Veterans have been aided in their path to recovery and self-sufficiency.