by Nic Custer
Carrie Miller, founder and executive director of Our Home Transitional, didn’t have answers for the “20 questions about your business” online form when she applied for a space in UM-Flint’s Innovation Incubator.
But Miller, a senior studying psychology, and her business have come a long way in the past year.
Her business offers female veterans housing assistance and connects them with social services like job training. She returned home to Flint in 2010 with a strong desire to work with struggling women and children.
After sending in her 20 questions to the Incubator, she met with Danny Bledsoe, a military veteran and business coach who was working with [IN]. He suggested she serve returning veterans as they transition to civilian life. She agreed and Bledsoe has since joined Our Home Transitional’s five-person board of directors. The board is made up of UM-Flint students and faculty.
Our Home Transitional is in the process of purchasing their first home for veterans. It is a 3-storey, ten-bedroom house, north of campus, which is owned by another nonprofit. Besides cosmetic repairs, the house is ready to be lived in. Miller needs to raise $20,000, which is more than 35% of the house’s cost in order to qualify for a Veterans Administration grant, which could cover the other 65% of the price. Our Home is working directly with the Detroit Veterans Administration on the project.
In addition to a GoFundMe page, Our Home has a couple of grant writers applying to both the C.S. Mott and Ruth Mott foundations in order to raise the $20,000 down payment. One of the grant writers is a female veteran.
The house will be a large space to fill so the business is also looking for donations of furniture in addition to money. In the mean time, Our Home could also use a donated storage unit for the furniture it already has.
The Genesee County Land Bank has told Our Home Transitional that they would be willing to donate future homes that aren’t being planned for rehabilitation.
Miller is appreciative of the support she gets from the Incubator. She said that the workshops, business coaching and office space in NBK 206 have been huge helps.
“The Incubator’s been a huge support system for me. We have board meetings in the co-working space every month,” she said.
Miller has had family members serve in the armed forces including her sister who in Desert Storm. She said Michigan is 53rd in providing benefits to veterans, dead last behind other states and U.S. territories. This is because most veterans who returned to the state used to just get a job at GM, now without any substantial jobs, many more people are applying for their benefits including current service men and women but also Vietnam and even Korean war vets. Miller said the current backlog of 375,000 applications takes two years to process.
The business is very rewarding for Miller who has two daughters, 6 and 16 years old. She said her teenager is very proud of her and has even written reports for school about what her mom is doing.