By Nancy Tannler
After twenty-two years in the military watching over the lives and well being of her fellow soldiers, Sergeant Tina Kennedy returned to civilian life only to see that vets face an even bigger challenge – houselessness.
Kennedy’s military career began shorty after graduating from Milwaukie HS. “I had two deployments in Iraq that earned me the Bronze Star, I also served in Kuwait, Taiwan, and South America.”
She made fifty-two jumps to earn her Air Born status. All of this was done while being a single-parent to her daughter.
Kennedy retired on her birthday, in 2014, and started a non-profit that same day whose goal was to help other veterans.
Like many vets returning to civilian life suffering from PTSD, she found this made it difficult to find employment. She was hired by Clackamas county as an outreach specialist for homeless vets. Her job was to find them and record their whereabouts, but the county didn’t have a lot of other solutions to help them.
On any given day, you could find Kennedy on the Springwater Trail, in the woods, on the streets, along the freeway and wherever the houseless population were. She checked on their health and welfare and helped out where she could.
“It was easy for me because I was used to being in difficult situations, I didn’t find them threatening.”
She used the non-profit to collect donations of tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, clothing, socks, boots, grooming items, etc., storing them in her garage and going with other volunteers to disperse them among vets who had fallen through the cracks.
In a conversation with one of her Vietnam veteran friends Gary McAdams, she briefly sketched out on a napkin what she saw as a solution to help stabilize some of these veterans.
Kennedy envisioned a military base, just like the ones they lived in during training and deployments – a place where their needs could be met.
That moment lead to a why not and Kennedy began to do the outreach to find a place where she could turn this into a reality.
Enter Norm and Brian Hardy, owners of Crosspoint NW, a large car auction business off Johnson Creek Blvd. They had a large office building, but didn’t need all the space, so they donated the second floor to this endeavor.
The general consensus of the volunteers named it Fort Kennedy and the program is HAVEN (Helping All Veterans Experience Normalcy). It is open to all veterans.
They are located at 7600 SE Johnson Creek Blvd., and open Mondays – Friday (closed Wednesday), 9 am – 3 pm.
Kennedy does the intake and helps direct people to different services available in the area.
The facility offers food, showers, clothes, pet supplies, baby items, diapers, a laundry, hygiene products, medical supplies, haircuts, PTSD and legal counseling, AA meetings, and camaraderie – nearly everything to make a life as normal as possible.
The house the American Legion VSO, Love One, Fido Project, VVA 392, Teamster Horsemen, CVMA, In-Country, PTSD foundation of America, DAV Gold Star Wives, and the Clackamas County Homeless Veteran Programs.
The day of The Southeast Examiner’s interview, two vets were at Fort Kennedy to reply to questions. Daryl, a Vietnam vet spends time here welcoming others and showing them what’s available. “This is a stepping stone in the lives of vets.”
Toast found Fort Kennedy and attributes this place to saving his life. “I would have frozen on the streets without Tina’s help finding me a place to live and Fort Kennedy giving me a reason to keep going.”
Currently Fort Kennedy is in need of jeans, sweatshirts and boots. Hygiene products are always welcome.
They are gearing up for the Thanksgiving holiday preparing over two hundred and fifty meals to take to veterans throughout the four counties.
They still need drivers for that event. The Box or Sox Drive runs November 11-December 9 at various locations. Fort Kennedy is organized, clean and ready with real help for all American Veterans.
See fortkennedy.org for info or call 503.765.2661.