Helping military families thrive with Operation Homefront

Jonathan Kaupanger
September 11, 2018 - 4:31 pm

Photo by Operation Homefront

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Things in the Army didn’t go according to plan for Walter Perez.  He wanted to put in a full 20 years in, but an IED blast in Iraq changed that.  A medical review board determined he was unfit for duty and he was out of the military. 

“The actual evaluation happened so fast,” says Perez.  “I thought I would have a year to kind of build a nest egg.  It didn’t work out that way.”  It took about six months for the whole process from being in the military to transitioning out for Perez, his wife and their five children.   “If it wasn’t for Operation Homefront, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I don’t know what I’d be doing, to be honest.” 

Operation Homefront’s mission isn’t to support military families and help them just get by, the goal is to build strong stable and secure military families so they can thrive.  They have many different programs, but for Perez, the Transitional Housing program was exactly what he needed. 

“When you have a family, the financial responsibilities are significant,” says Operation Homefront’s President & CEO John I. Pray Jr.  “And a lot of military families, particularly when they transition out of the military tend to underestimate the challenges that they may face and that’s exactly why Operation Homefront is there.  Is to help them overcome many of these unforeseen or unexpected challenges and get them through that transitional period.”

While Operation Homefront has many different programs, the one that worked best for Perez is the Transitional Housing program.  This allowed his family to live rent-free while going through the transition process.  The apartments are fully furnished, complete with full utility services, internet access cable TV and telephone service.  The communities are close to hospitals that take care of injured service members. They are in Gaithersburg, MD, San Antonio, TX and San Diego, CA.

Photo by Operation Homefront

In order to stay in one of these homes, veterans need an honorable discharge, be within 12 months of discharge and willing to work towards self-sufficiency.  To help get you to that point, Operation Homefront provides financial education and support services. 

Programs at Operation Homefront are designed to help the military family understand income expense lines, build a budget, increase savings and reduce debt.  “It’s all designed to come together for that,” says Pray.  “Our various programs have different meeting schedules that our service members are required to participate in, in order to stay in the program and graduate.

Perez says he knew he needed to build a budget.  When he first learned about the budget requirements, $300 per month, he admits it was a challenging task at first.  “I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but with Operation Homefront, they have so many partners,” explains Perez.  “There are all different types of resources to use to supplement you, so the $300 makes sense.  Once you actually go through the program and apply the tools they give you, it makes sense.”

One thing Perez leaned is that you have to make the budget work for you.  “When I first got into the budget, they can be complicated if you don’t adjust it to your lifestyle,” says Perez.  “We actually went through about six or seven budgets before I found the one that matched me.  And that’s how I was able to maximize it.”

Home ownership for veterans is a goal for Operation Homefront.  “Many of the young families that we help don’t have a history of home ownership,” says Pray.  “It’s important for them to learn the process and all the different parts that go into being a successful homeowner.”  To help participants reach these goals goal families are required to pay a small monthly fee that’s refunded once they graduate from the program. 

Perez also had goals, and before long his family of seven was able to reduce their budget to $125 per month!  By the time he finished the program he wanted to be able to put a down payment on a home and start his own business.  “I’ve reached both the goals,” says Perez.  “I put 20 percent down on my home and I was able to self-fund my business without using external loans.   When I got to Operation Homefront, I had $150 to my name.  Look where I am now.  I’m not rich, but I’m doing really well.”

You can find more information and apply for Operation Homefront’s Transitional Housing Program here.

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