Each veteran who walks through Fellow Countrymen’s doors has something in common with the founder — they’ve served in the military and lived on the streets.
When David Nardone opened Fellow Countrymen on April 22, 2017, there were housing resources for veterans, but there were no homeless shelters in Greenville County targeting them.
Nardone, who served in the Marines for 17 years, decided to start the nonprofit after encountering several homeless veterans while volunteering with Upstate Warrior Solution, a nonprofit organization that connects veterans with resources.
“It frustrated me. So I was challenged by the president of Upstate Warrior Solution, whose name is Charlie Hall, to become part of the solution,” Nardone said.
A church acquaintance of Nardone’s heard about the organization and let him use a property on Agnew Street in Greenville to house the veterans.
At the start of the new year, Fellow Countrymen opened the doors to its new property on Elmwood Avenue, expanding its number of beds from two to 10.
The organization is Christian-based, but it doesn’t require its tenants to be religious.
Nardone can relate to the veterans who walk through his doors — in 2007, he was also homeless with nowhere to go.
“[I was] dealing with six months of homelessness and sleeping on couches until I went to rehab ultimately to turn my life around,” Nardone said. “A lot of us have come through the darkness ourselves and came out on the other side, and we’re just here to encourage the next guy to keep pushing.”
It’s been less than two years since Fellow Countrymen opened, with 13 homeless vets served in the program.
“What they need is what I needed,” Nardone said.
Some of them have left and are now reconnected with their families. Others have found jobs with steady pay and can afford a place of their own.
The intent behind the organization isn’t to house the veterans long-term, but to give them a chance to get back on their feet through a temporary place to stay, food, and basic needs.
“Every one of them is different. We encourage them to get back to work. The Lord tells us man is supposed to work and not become a victim to life, and so we work through those issues with them,” Nardone said.
A few volunteers help out with logistics — Nardone has a volunteer licensed social worker, a volunteer pastor, and a few veterans who serve as peer support. None of them are paid.
Nardone met Hoyle Cox, a 69-year-old Vietnam War-era veteran, with his walker by a QuikTrip after he had spent some time in Greenville Memorial Hospital in November.
Nardone is working to find Hoyle’s relatives, who he says are in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Nardone said there are about 150 homeless veterans in the Upstate.
It will cost Nardone about $2,200 per month to run the two homes with a volunteer staff.
“I don’t have the funding nailed down yet on how we’re going to do it,” Nardone said.
He has some donations and grants to fund the next six to seven months, but he’s hoping more consistent funding will start trickling in.
“The Lord will provide for us,” Nardone said.