Thursday

HVAF provides bikes to homeless veterans

Reggie Jefferson, 58, a homeless U.S. Army veteran, was a professional singer who relocated to South Beach, Florida in 1994 after his wife passed away. He ended up homeless, sleeping on the beach listening to ocean waves crash before him. His life was spiraling downward and he returned back home to Indianapolis for help with alcoholism.

Mark Lykins, a case manager with HVAF’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, realized the need last summer for bikes for our homeless veterans.

That’s how the two men met back in May of 2016.

Since the bike program began in June of 2016, Mark has collected 37 bikes. Monetary donations have allowed him to purchase locks for the bikes, as well as tools to refurbish them to help homeless veterans without transportation.

Thirty-three bikes have already been given to homeless veterans, including Reggie, while others have been used for parts when deemed beyond salvage.
Reggie said not having a car during his week of living homeless really gave him a better understanding of how difficult it is for the homeless to apply for employment, go to the grocery store and medical appointments as well as look for housing.
“Bikes make it easier,” Reggie said.
“Transportation is a big issue in Indianapolis,” Mark said. “And employment is essential for Reggie. He’s not housed in the middle of town and so his bike has cut his commute from a one hour and 20 minute walk to a 20 minute bike ride.”
Mark said the criteria for a homeless veteran to receive a bike is that they need to be able to prove veteran status and have housing issues.
“Then when they don’t need it (bike) anymore, they can give it back,” said Mark, who in turn can give the bike to another homeless veteran without transportation.
Mark said it can take anywhere from days to months for a homeless veteran to get a job depending on an individual’s circumstances. He’s thankful for generous donors and hopes to receive more bikes. To donate a bike to HVAF, contact Volunteer Coordinator Robin Close at (317) 951-0688.

HVAF also accepts monetary donations.  Donate online at hvaf.org.

Veteran learns to combat alcoholism

Timothy had the courage to fight back against veteran alcoholism — a personal fight for him. After hitting bottom with alcoholism, he rose back after a long battle with the disease and wanted to give back to other veterans.
The U.S. Navy veteran says his propensity for alcohol was heightened in the Navy where he would stop at bars at each pier - booze was always around.

“I came out of the Navy an alcoholic and I also had also some PTSA from sexual assault that wasn’t diagnosed until 20 years after my service,” adds Timothy.

The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center reports that nearly 13 percent of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 to 2008 were referred to counseling for alcohol problems after their post-deployment health assessments. That’s a significant portion of deployed forces coming back to face alcohol problems.

After completing his service, Timothy worked as a finance manager, but his dependency on alcohol affected his work.

“And then I traded one drug for another and began using cocaine and it cost me my home and family,” says Timothy.

In 1986, Timothy enrolled in a recovery treatment program but eventually relapsed. For three decades he was in and out of recovery programs.

He came to HVAF in May 2016. The program worked and he slowly began to rebuild his life.

“You make progress each time. I am 55 years old and each time you make progress. Every time I had relapsed it was because I had stopped doing the things I was supposed to be doing like going to meetings, church and visiting family. When you give up that support – you are doomed.”

“Support groups are very critical to recovery,” says Timothy’s Case Manager, Shawnita Yarbro. “And to show the veteran that you genuinely care about their well-being and overall success is key.”

Today, Timothy is thriving. He is housed and has been clean and sober for six months. He receives VA disability and is working to pay off his debts and eventually move into permanent housing. He serves as a mentor for other veterans by routinely telling his story and offering hope.

Donor spotlight

Michael H. Rodriques of Simon Construction Group hosted his 50th birthday party in June which in lieu of gifts was a fundraiser for HVAF. He raised close to $1,000.

“Veteran's issues have been a huge concern for me for a long time,” says Michael. “I often reflect on the sacrifice veterans have made (and continue to make) for us to secure the lifestyle, freedom and culture we enjoy in this country and we don't do enough to support them after they return from often horrific experiences.”

Michael then decided to volunteer at HVAF in the food pantry, sorting and stocking donations.

His help didn’t stop there.

To help promote and raise awareness for the 12th annual Veteran Stand Down hosted by HVAF his company sponsored billboard advertisements at a value of $1,500.

Additionally, Michael is working with HVAF employment specialists to place qualified veterans in positions available throughout the SIMON portfolio.

“There is no reason with the resources available to us that any veteran should be left behind,” adds Michael. “We, as a collective community, need to do a better job of supporting them.”


Michael says his goal is to continue to help HVAF in any way he can.

Monday

Once homeless, veteran now serves others

James at HVAF
James Miller has had many titles over the years; husband, U.S. Air Force veteran, volunteer, but there was one title he never thought he would have − homeless.

A native of Indianapolis, James moved back home and after enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1978 where he worked as a nuclear weapons technician and an electronics technician at the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD).

Following four years of service, James went on to receive an engineering degree from ITT Tech in Indianapolis.

After graduating from college, James’ struggles began. He was employed, but turned to drugs as a source of recreation.

In 1993, due to drug use James became homeless and began couch-surfing, staying at shelters and abandoned homes. To support his drug habit, he sold his belongings. He was homeless for ten years.  While it may be difficult to comprehend for those who have never experienced homelessness, James said that reintegrating was difficult because he actually became accustomed to being homeless.

With limited options, he learned about HVAF during a visit to the Veterans Affairs benefits office and decided to enter HVAF’s recovery program in 2002. His journey out of homelessness was not without set-backs. It took him four years to graduate from the program because he relapsed.

HVAF’s recovery program helps homeless veterans recover from substance abuse and drugs and reintegrate into meaningful employment in the civilian labor force through a variety of services that address the complex problems they face.

James continued to visit HVAF periodically after he left the recovery program. It’s where he learned of a job opportunity at HVAF as Peer Mentor. He was hired in 2012. As Peer Mentor, James travels to three housing properties: Warman, Manchester, and Moreau to meet with veterans and their case managers to identify those who are struggling and in need of a “mentor.”

James also manages two groups which meet weekly. The Vet to Vet group allows veterans the chance to bond and share their struggles and be supportive of one other. A Recovery group aimed at focusing on veterans who are dealing with a substance use disorder is also facilitated by James.

“I am not afraid to be transparent with my own struggles with addiction and homelessness,” says James. “Having been a former client and having struggled for so long it impressed upon me this notion that what I do really matters. HVAF has been a big part of my life and if I can help one person then everything I went through had a purpose and value.”

James keeps a busy schedule.

In May 2013, James received an Associate Degree in Human Services from Ivy Tech.
In June, James received a “Case Manager Certificate” from the Indianapolis Case Management Institute (ICMI)  which is a 6-month training program launched by United Way of Central Indiana designed to help case managers serving at-risk individuals who need services and techniques for self-care to prevent burnout.

James is also a full-time student at IUPUI and will receive his BA in Social Work in May 2017.


He is using his journey through homelessness to inspire others. 

Friday

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.