“Never Alone, Always Together” is the saying that adorns the merchandise and flyers for Buddy Watch Inc. Buddy Watch is a local non-profit raising money for the birth of a new community of tiny homes for those homeless veterans seeking help.
Buddy Watch was founded in 2017 as a means to raise awareness of the homeless veteran population. With the help of donations and the cooperation of veteran-owned businesses and organizations, the goal is to establish a community of tiny-homes in Liberty County, CEO Jo Coleman said.
“Veterans are going to do work to help veterans,” Coleman said. “I founded BuddyWatch knowing that our veterans are out there and they have served the country in my place, gives me this burden to make an impact. I want to hand it over to veterans. The board will be veterans, so that they, the ones that are a part of the organization, to make it veterans doing the work to help other veterans for free.”
In helping others, people help themselves, Coleman continued. BuddyWatch will work with those veterans to help complete the paperwork process for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, provide food and housing, establish work for them, and provide counseling services in conjunction with a veteran-based community.
The idea is to establish a community named Polaris, in Liberty County. It will be comprised of tiny homes, between 800-900 square feet. The problem, Coleman said, is that the organization lacks the funds to purchase enough land to establish the community and counseling center they have plans for.
The housing will be a functional and flexible area for homeless veterans. Coleman said that it will be there for those who pass through, need a bed and a hot meal, and go on their way, or for those seeking a more permanent sense of security and camaraderie.
“I want to put them out by themselves so they can police themselves and make their own little community without being surrounded by extra chaos from outside sources,” Coleman said. “I’d like to have therapeutic outlets and jobs for the veterans, like woodshops or car shops, and they could help generate income for BuddyWatch through the things they enjoy. It’s highly productive and self-sustaining. It’s what they make it.”
BuddyWatch President Freddie Jones wants to eventually expand BuddyWatch and its tiny home communities to other areas in the United States.
“It’s not just Hinesville, and Midway, it’s the whole United States,” Jones said. “Atlanta has upward of 3,200 vets that sit on the roads. It just shouldn’t be like that.”
Currently, the organization is fundraising to raise enough funds to purchase more land and begin the long process. Through the generosity of Coleman, BuddyWatch has secured one acre of land, and are in the process of developing logistics for the community to be built. However, securing the funds is the challenge.
“Hopefully the shoe drive brings in enough money,” Jones said. “We sell shirts. We have everything in place to do things the correct way, but we just need that extra push.”
BuddyWatch sells T-shirts and baseball caps, and they are participating in a funds2orgs shoe drive. In the past five months, BuddyWatch has been able to raise an estimated $2,000.
The funds2orgs shoe drive is an initiative meant to help small businesses, non-profits and other organizations. Organizations collect gently worn, used and new shoes for the drive, and in exchange, funds2orgs pays $0.40 for each pound of shoes collected. The more shoes collected, the more money is earned, according to funds2orgs.com.
“We put 25 pairs to a bag, and the truck will come in January,” Coleman said. “They’ll weigh the shoes and pay us 40 cents a pound. That can definitely add up, especially when the weight is coming from boots.”
BuddyWatch has about eight or nine bags so far, but the goal is to get to 100, she continued. Everybody can collect, and businesses around Hinesville are currently collecting. All GeoVista Credit Union locations are collecting, as well as Hinesville Day Spa; Get N’ Go in Midway; Coastal Discount Pharmacy; Tybee Island; the Richmond Hill and Hinesville CORA Physical Therapy locations, and others.
“We encourage other businesses to participate,” Coleman said. “It’s not limited to just one or two. Everybody can help.”
CORA Physical Therapy’s PT and Clinic Manager Carrie Ripp and staff are happy to help fundraise for an organization like BuddyWatch.
“We help people every day, and helping them outside of the clinic is great,” Ripp said. “That’s the majority of the population here. Most of our staff is connected to the military in some way—spouses or family members—and it’s a great way to make an impact outside of what we do.”
The Richmond Hill CORA Physical Therapy’s shoe box has been emptied once, spurring a competition between the sites, although, not everyone was aware.
“We didn’t know there was a competition,” Ripp added. “We’ll have to step up our game now.”
For more information on BuddyWatch and its mission, visit www.buddywatchinc.org or visit BuddyWatch’s Facebook page.