Transitional housing helps homeless vets

For veterans sleeping on the streets, the first step to help them has to be to get them into transitional housing. Interfaith Community Services of Escondido (ICS) has been providing temporary housing to veterans for more than ten years in their physical location at Quince and Washington, Escondido, 92025, under the name of Merle’s Place One and Two.

The ICS hides the fact that at any one time, more than forty male vets are living jam-packed on-site, in the back of the ICS’s central offices. What was formerly a garage has been refurbished and turned into a permanent shelter.

Case Managers live on board to keep the vets on a tight schedule to move forward with their lives. The vets can stay at Merle’s Place for up to two years to pursue their own individual employment, permanent housing, and school options. During the daytime hours, when ICS is providing services to other clients, the vets are expected to be off-site.

“There’s often not enough in our budget to provide the vets with any more than the basic necessities, though,” said Dean Dauphinais, Director of Veterans Services of Merle’s Place, One and Two. The men bring what they own with them and store their gear in lockers.  That’s where the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Rincon del Diablo Chapter (NSDAR), based in Rancho Bernardo, came into the picture three years ago.

“The men were using a cardboard box for a pillow prior to coming in to the backside, hidden from the street, of the ICS offices. We saw the immediate need to provide the vets with linens, which includes the pillows, top and bottom sheets, pillowcases, washcloths, towels, and a beautiful comforter on each mattress,” said Jan Compton, NSDAR Chapter, Homeless Veterans Project Coordinator.

The timing was fortuitous. Merle’s Place One and Two has a small but established reputation for helping homeless vets in the North County community.  “The NSDAR Chapter was looking for a new project, in 2011, that was consistent with our goals of encouraging a love of U.S. history, advancing education and supporting patriotism,” said Rachel Jorgenson, NSDAR Chapter Regent (President).  

“We try to provide a decent lifestyle until the vet can get sustainable income to move into permanent housing,” said Dauphinais. “This is not a flop house but a real chance.”

The NSDAR sees helping Merle’s Place as an ongoing project. “When a vet leaves Merle’s Place, unfortunately, there’s a new vet coming in off the street, needing a new set of linens,” said Phyllis Young, NSDAR Project Coordinator for the several social welfare programs that the Chapter supports.

The NSDAR celebrates its 125th year anniversary as a national women’s service organization in 2015. “We want the men to know we care about them,” stated Compton in a recent interview. “The beautiful large quilt on the wall, donated by one of our members, is that daily reminder that we have not forgotten them.”

If a vet wants to be placed in Merle’s Place One and Two, please contact Dean Dauphinais directly via email Dean Dauphinais ddauphinais@interfaithservices.org, or come to ICS at Quince and Washington in Escondido during regular business hours.

If you have a story to share with the veterans’ community, please contact Heather Siegel, The Siegel Sidebar, at siegelsidebar@cox.net or 760-432-8383.

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About the Author

siegelsidebar@militarypress.com'

Heather Siegel

Heather Siegel is a well-known disability rights advocate. Each story brings Siegel’s unique insights into the complex lives of disabled veterans struggling to survive in the peacetime world. If you know someone who would be a good candidate for a profile, please contact Heather Siegel — The Siegel Sidebar at siegelsidebar@militarypress.com or (760) 432-8383.


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