When Seth Brees left the Air Force after 12 years of service, he didn’t immediately find his niche. Instead, he took the first job he was offered.
“I floundered a little bit, I didn’t have a goal or a direction,” he explains. “I took the first job that came along and I was miserable. Now I know why: it just wasn’t for me. We’ve all had one of those jobs. I felt kind of lost.”
Military Veteran Champions Homeless Veterans, Transition Support
Even though he had taken the transition assistance classes offered by the Air Force, he still struggled after he EASed. Something was missing.
“For me, I needed a new mission, a direction, a focus.”
Shortly after, Brees discovered Passageways, LTD. a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting homeless veterans in and around Wichita, KS. Passageways was founded in 2014 by Jennifer Garrison and Susan Moellinger in an effort to provide a solution to the homeless veterans in their city.
“The founders were watching the news and a homeless veteran died under a bridge due to cold exposure,” shares Brees. “They called around and nothing was being done. Now, 5 years later they’re getting ready to open their own neighborhood for homeless veterans.”
Brees connected with the homeless veterans he was serving through Passageways, LTD. over shared experiences following their military service.
Air Force Vet Finds New Mission Helping Homeless Vets
“(Volunteering with Passageways) started mainly just me looking for something to get excited about when I left the military,” he explains. “And that was it. I found it and I’ve been going full speed ahead ever since.”
As his connection to Passageway’s mission grew, Brees became more committed to being a changemaker for homeless veterans. In the process, he’s discovered that veterans often end up with uncertain housing situations due to a rough transition to civilian life.
“It’s very much a psychological event,” he says. “You get used to a certain lifestyle, the comradery with military culture. When you leave the military, you don’t have the comradery.”
Beyond the seachange in lifestyle and support, there is often trouble translating their years of military experience into information that civilians can understand.
“Decoding your military experience is how I usually put it,” Brees says. “I recognized that the biggest thing that we can offer is some guidance. We have (transition assistance) on military bases, which is great. But there is so much more that we can do and it requires that personal touch.”
Added to the equation is having some level of financial security or mobility. Having instability here, even if there is housing currently, could lead to bigger issues in the near future.
“You’re one incident away from homelessness,” Brees shares. “If you lose your car, you’re done. You lose your means to go make money. There’s a difference between being homeless with a car and without, because then you’re relying on public transportation and getting employment gets significantly harder.”
Combatting Veteran Homelessness Inspires Air Force Veteran
Over the years that Passageways has been supporting homeless veterans in Wichita, Brees notes that over 8o veterans have transitioned to stable housing. In total, Passageways has helped approximately 2,500 homeless veterans.
“With Passageways, the youngest (veteran) has been 27 and the oldest has been 97, a WW2 Veteran. He lived out of his car for 30 years and not anymore!”
As a board member, Brees has supported Passageways towards a major goal: opening a neighborhood of homes for homeless veterans.
“Operation homefront will be a gated community only for homeless veterans in the Wichita area. Open to men and women, families, and service animals.”
Brees excitedly shared the details of this new project, one of the first of its kind specifically for homeless veterans. All told, there will be 15 one-bedroom homes for individuals and 15 two-bedroom homes for families with up to three children. Service animals will be welcomed and community support features are built into the neighborhood.
Launching a New Mission to Support Transitioning Veterans
While working with homeless veterans, Brees realized that often they needed a little extra support and guidance to translate their military experiences into civilian jobs. This led to his small business venture, Veterans Mentor.
As part of his business, Brees offers personalized support and assistance navigating life post-military.
In addition to his business, Brees also hosts a podcast – The Veterans Advocate. He uses this platform to share stories and experiences, veteran to veteran.
Part of his mission is to educate veterans about the resources available, as well as share advice from those who have been there, done that. A large portion of his podcast guests has been veterans that have transitioned out of homelessness.
“I just want to talk to somebody who has a story to tell,” says Brees. “I don’t want a perfect success story. I want someone who is relatable. Anyone who has been through a rough transition and has some advice to offer, that’s what I’m after.”
Whether on his podcast, through his business or via Passageways, Brees has been struck again and again by the willingness of the military and veteran community to support each other.
“Overwhelmingly veterans are eager to help other veterans with anything. All you need to do is ask.”
While he has his podcast and business, Brees’s heart is overwhelmingly with Passageways.
“If I can get anything accomplished, I just want to get the name and story of Passageways out there.”
To support Air Force Veteran Seth Brees and Passageways, LTD., please consider making a donation. Your support will allow them to complete the Operation Homefront neighborhood and continue reaching homeless veterans in and around Wichita, KS.