Once homeless veteran maneuvers the job market

Leah T., a previously homeless U.S. Army veteran, came to HVAF for housing in 2014. She had hopes of finding a job as a medical assistant, but she lacked experience. She also faced medical issues and was recovering from years of mental abuse.

“It was a long 4 years of homelessness simply because I was stubborn,” says Leah. “If I would have not focused so hard on finding a medical assistant position I would have done something else.”

At HVAF, Leah met with employment specialists who helped open her eyes to other employment opportunities.  Employment specialists helped her improve her resume and attend job fairs. In July, Leah secured full-time permanent employment at Amazon Fulfillment Center. She is working 40 hours per week and moved into her own permanent housing.

“I am looking forward to getting my first paycheck,” says Leah. “It has been a long time coming.”

Leah has not given up on her dream of becoming a medical assistant. She plans to take certification classes and learning everything she can as well as to continue visiting those who helped her at HVAF.

“I have worked with Leah for several years and it is great to see the transformation that has taken place,” says Employment Coordinator Chasiti Herring. “She is motivated and goes the extra mile to attend hiring fairs and submit applications. Leah has come a long way.”

Leah will also be giving back to HVAF by volunteering each Thursday sorting and stocking donations that come into the food and clothing pantry.

Homeless veteran at HVAF receives new bed at age 56

In 2014, Terri, 56, walked into HVAF in need of housing. She carried very little; only her DD214 card proving she was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. The card is all she needed. HVAF provided her with a furnished apartment, food, hygiene items and clothing. It was an adjustment, but so was homelessness. Terri was finally getting the help she needed.

Once housed at HVAF, Terri no longer needed to find shelter. She began attending group meetings on a range of mental health issues, including depression, bipolar disorder and PTSD. She attended meetings at the VA.  Because of her mental health issues she says it has been difficult to hold down a job.

At HVAF, Terri was referred to HUD VASH and she soon started receiving disability payments and permanent supportive housing. She also qualified for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program which allowed her to receive a new bed, bedding and assistance with her car repairs. This bed is the first one she has had in her entire life.

All of these resources were offered to her because she came to HVAF.

“If it wasn’t for HVAF I would be on the street sleeping in the car,” says Terri.

Today, Terri is living in her own apartment and receives ongoing mental health treatment at the VA.

She also has reunited with her 18-year old cat, Isabella.

Homeless veteran who once lived on $133 a month finds his way again

Donell Marzett, 59, served in the U.S. Army during significant international conflicts. Now, he’s helping other veterans face and win some of the toughest battles of their lives. He doesn’t talk about his time in service, but he is a proud soldier who followed in the footsteps of his father and two uncles by choosing a career in the infantry.

“When I was in the Army, I always had a feeling of purpose, but when I got home I felt as though I lost that purpose and had to find my way again. I was so used to the structure that the military provides and civilian life seemed jarring. I was trying to figure out where I fit in and what sort of career to enter,” said Donell.

When his service ended, Donell’s hardships began. Depression soon followed.

Donell suffered from anxiety and turned to drugs before ending up at the VA Hospital following an attempted suicide. For two years, he lived in an abandoned house in Terre Haute leaning on the skills he learned in the military. He relied on external sources of heat to stay warm.

Then, things got worse. In 2010, he was arrested by the U.S. Marshalls for child support payments and spent eight days in jail and was sentenced to four years of probation.

“After my arrest I had to start all over again, and for several months I lived on $133 a month,” said Donell.

It was then he returned to Indianapolis where the majority of his service providers are located and in 2015 Donell came to HVAF for housing.  Once housed, he enrolled and completed classes in mental health services and sobriety at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

His Case Manager, Doneeka Gunn, at HVAF helped connect him with services.

“I have watched Donell go through some of life’s most challenging times and then relish in the good times,” says Case Manager Doneeka Gunn. “He did not give up. HVAF was with him every step of the way in providing him with the resources that he needed to get him on his feet.”

Today, Donell works as a talent engagement specialist at WorkOne. He is ready to give back by helping veterans who were once in his shoes. His future goals include moving into his own home, purchasing a car, and continuing his commitment to his job.


Once-homeless vet fights back from homelessness

Tyler Brinkley, 61, was a soldier who cooked three meals a day for 8,000 soldiers deployed in Guam.

“The first meal of the day is very important,” says Tyler. “Eating in the dining room hall helped our soldiers feel connected.”

Tyler at HVAF
For many soldiers being away from home can be isolating. It was no different for Tyler who served in the U.S. Air Force for 22 months. After being honorably discharged he came home to Indianapolis and spent nearly two decades working as a painter. However, soon the physical labor took a toll on his body. He was unable to hold down a job and support himself. Tyler became depressed and turned to alcohol to cope. As his health worsened he struggled financially to support himself.

Tyler’s living situation also changed in June 2014. The condo he was renting went up for sale leaving him homeless. He turned to the VA for help and was then referred to HVAF for housing.

“Tyler walked in and said “OK, I’m here. How can I get my life in order?’” said HVAF Case Manager Andree Brian.  “He was extremely determined and because of his determination we were able to achieve all of his goals.”

HVAF provided Tyler with housing and reintegration services as well as offered him programs and services that once served as barriers. He received free dental work, eye exams, as well as help filling out his social security benefits in which he later qualified. As a result, his self-esteem soared.

“I now feel a greater sense of peace,” adds Tyler. "The future looks bright again and I envision myself in my own apartment someday. I want to be healthy and happy.”

Today, Tyler is thankful to have a roof over his head at HVAF’s Loyd House. He is preparing three meals each day and that brings him a renewed sense of purpose.

HVAF veterans tell their stories through writing

Fred Young, HVAF Recovery Coordinator
reading his letter to the group
Veterans at HVAF are finding their voice with the help of a local writing organization. A dozen veterans submitted written stories to “Writing Home,” a 2016 Spirit and Place Festival program sponsored by the Indiana Writers Center, Dance Kaleidoscope, the Indiana Historical Society, the Albert and Sarah Ruben Senior Resource Center, and the JCC which the stories of American Veterans will be interpreted in words and dance. Two free performances, showcasing the Veterans’ stories in words and dance, will be held at Partnerships for Lawrence, Theatre at the Fort, on Friday, November 11, and two will be held at the JCC on Sunday, November 13.  

"Every veteran has a story,” says Indiana Writers Center Executive Director Barbara Shoup. “Each person’s experience tell us something we need to know about what military service is like, what we ask of people when we encourage them to serve our country.”

Air Force veteran, Michael W., reflected on his military experiences for the exercise and talked about his initial fear of leaving home. He learned how to embrace fear and unknown and through writing he opened up and shared old memories.

“Barbara really helped me share my feelings openly and express myself and she also encouraged me to keep on writing by giving me tools to use and guidance,” says Michael.