A Wheaton-based shelter serving homeless veterans is planning to expand its mission while honoring a fallen hero.
Officials with the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans say the not-for-profit group has purchased a second property in downtown Wheaton that will be converted into affordable housing for up to six veterans, including space for a female veteran.
The home, which is expected to open in March, will be named for Medal of Honor recipient Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, a 2002 graduate of Wheaton North High School.
Miller was killed during a Jan. 25, 2008, battle with Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Despite being injured twice in the chest, the 24-year-old continued advancing, firing and hurling grenades. He drew fire away from fellow soldiers and saved their lives.
Jack Matosian, who sits on the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans' board of directors, said the group's original facility, which opened in 2007, was named in honor of Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Larson, a 19-year-old Wheaton man who died in Iraq in 2004.
Now that a second home is planned, Matosian said the organization wanted to continue the tradition.
"He (Miller) gave up his life to save his comrades in arms," he said. "And we're all about helping veterans in a different way."
The shelter provides a variety of services, including counseling and job training, to homeless veterans in an effort to help them become self-sufficient.
"Our mission is to help our veterans out of homelessness and back to useful, productive lives," said Bob Adams, the group's co-founder and board president.
While the original facility helps to get homeless veterans off the street, officials said, the second home will provide affordable housing to qualified veterans.
"Some of the veterans who graduate from the program at the original house might be looking for some low-rent housing that they can afford," Matosian said. "The ideal situation would be to migrate them over to the second facility until they can really get back on their feet."
The recently acquired property at 111 N. West St. is two doors south of the existing Midwest shelter. The purchase was made with grant money obtained through DuPage County and a grant from a private foundation, which prefers to remain anonymous.
Anyone interested in donating, volunteering or learning more about the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans can call (630) 871-8387 or visit helpaveteran.org.