JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-- When soldiers leave the battlefield, the war isn't necessarily over.
The Allied Veterans of the World understand that-- that's why it purchased an old nursing home, renovated it and opened it up to local heroes.
"Our program is based upon veterans helping veterans. A hand up, not a hand out," Col. Len Loving said.
The 13,000 square foot facility can hold up to 80 homeless vets. They're fed, trained, and even given life skills to help them get back in the workforce. Even better-- it doesn't cost residents like Lana Phillips a penny. She's only been there a few weeks, but can't imagine what life would be without it.
"My life was like a boat that was ready to crash. I have no family...they're all deceased. I'm not from Jacksonville," she said.
When we toured the center, we found a friendly atmosphere, plenty of smiling faces...and a group piano getting a little tune-up.
According to Allied Veterans-- up to 50% of the vets coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are projected to be homeless.
Col. Loving says those stats...that urgency are what drives the center and what makes it a staple for years to come.
"We hope that the program will be successful so we'll have that rotational, that in the door, get the program up and running, get the people through our program and out," he said.
The next phase of the center will involve turning a space into a health center and screening veterans for psychological, emotional and physical needs. It will eventually be turned into a walk-up clinic. They expect to be finished with it by end of summer.
For more information, visit http://www.alliedvetscenter.org/