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'None of us gets and stays sober on our own': Groundbreaking last month for new sober house for veterans in Martin Co.

Albert Lea Tribune - 5/22/2024

May 21—By Ayanna Eckblad

It takes a community to support those struggling with addiction. The challenge can be even greater for veterans dealing with substance abuse as their needs may vary from those of other civilians.

Recently, faith-based organization Trinity Sober Homes began a branch of sober houses designed specifically for veterans. Their groundbreaking ceremony was in late April.

The house's executive director, Tim Murray, explained more about what the house means to him and what plans for the new sober house will entail.

Murray's journey to open the Bravo Zulu House began when he was recruited by Col. Father Martin Fleming to help him open faith-based sober houses.

Around 2011 they opened Trinity Sober Homes. Currently, Trinity has four homes with three locations in the Twin Cities and one in Waseca County. It has helped over 450 people and 71% of residents remain sober one year after treatment.

Murray noticed there was a gap in addiction treatment options for veterans. He explained that 90% of veterans who commit suicide struggle with PTSD and 90% of those with PTSD struggle with drug and/or alcohol addiction.

"What we have figured out is that lack of sobriety is the number one barrier to treating PTSD," Murray said. He added the more research he did, the more he realized that PTSD cannot be treated when the individual is actively in addiction.

With that, the idea of the Bravo Zulu House was formed.

"Bravo Zulu House is America's first and only veterans-only sober house that helps veterans with both PTSD and addiction," he said. "We're doing everything that we did in Trinity, plus we've added three new items we think are going to help these guys."

Each veteran staying at the Bravo Zulu House in Martin County will be assigned a therapy professional who is knowledgeable treating PTSD and a dog for additional animal therapy. The house will also run a hydroponic farming operation on site. This will provide employment for people at the house as well as add sustainability in providing power for the house.

In choosing the location, Murray said he was looking for a few different things. He wanted the house to be close to the Trinity House in New Richland. He also wanted a location that was near Mankato and Rochester where people would be going for treatment. Murray had over 50 meetings with professionals

in various fields while he looked for the perfect place to build the new sober house.

"Martin County kept popping up as one of the most enthusiastic and supporting of the idea," Murray said. He described the decision to build the home in Martin County as "a no-brainer."

Trinity Sober Homes bought a farmhouse with five acres in December. The house has a Winnebago mailing address, but is located in Martin County.

Murray said he wanted to wait until the project had made some progress before hosting a groundbreaking ceremony.

"That way people could see that it's no longer just an idea — but it's a reality," he said.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held on April 24 and had five speakers: Pam Krill, Minnesota membership director of the American Legion; Jack Zimmerman, a Purple Heart recipient and chairman of the Bravo Zulu House advisory board; Kathy Smith, Martin County commissioner; Bjorn Olson, representative in the Minnesota House of Representatives; and U.S. Rep. Brad Finstad.

Murray said the targeted budget goal for the project is $1.2 million. It cost $275,000 for the five-bedroom house. There will be an eight-bedroom addition to the house and many of the rooms will be handicap accessible. This addition will cost roughly $600,000. It will cost another $150,000 for the dog kennels on the property. The rest of the money will go toward building the hydroponic farming facility, a project that will cost about $250,000.

So far, $670,000 has been raised. About half of this has come from in-kind donations from the various contractors and companies the house is partnering with. Among these are Hinz N Hinz General Contractor Inc., APX Construction Group, Day Plumbing and Heating, Tvedten Electric, Sedgwick Heating and Air Conditioning, Blue Valley Sod and Boekett Lumber and Supply. Organizations like the American Legion and the VFW have contributed support as well. Bravo Zulu House will be partnering with Paws for a Cause in providing therapy dogs for veterans at the house.

While the original opening date of the house was projected to be in fall 2024, it has needed to be pushed back due to the large amounts of rain the area has received. The opening date is now tentatively scheduled for early 2025.

"We're moving forward," said Murray good-naturedly. "We're waiting for it to stop raining so we can get the foundations dug. In the meantime, we're continuing with the demolition and framing for the remodeling that's going on in the existing old farmhouse."

Murray said he is excited to help more people with their journeys toward sobriety.

"None of us gets and stays sober on our own," he said. "Each of these houses is just another opportunity for ... hundreds of veterans ... to transform their lives and be the person they've always wanted to be."

Trinity Sober Homes hopes to open sobriety houses for women in the future.

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(c)2024 the Albert Lea Tribune (Albert Lea, Minn.)

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