HVAF of Indiana, Inc. veterans and others picture their perfect holiday gift

UPDATE: Nuvo Magazine features Help Portrait event. Read more by clicking this link!

"The power of photography is amazing," says
Chelsea Moore, a local photographer and HVAF of Indiana, Inc. volunteer who joined dozens of volunteers Saturday during the third annual Help Portrait event, held at HVAF of Indiana, Inc., Saturday, Dec. 10.

Help Portrait is a global movement of photographers who donate their time, gear and expertise to give back to those in need. For the event the lobby of HVAF's Manchester Apartments was transformed into a professional photo studio equipped with lights, reflectors, and cameras.

"It's very exciting this year to have a portrait taken. I have had a difficult Christmas and this is such a nice gift," says Charisse Bryant who traveled from a local women's shelter to get her portrait taken.

A total of 100 portraits were taken during the day-long photo session, including portraits of several veterans living in HVAF's transitional housing. For HVAF veterans it was the first portrait many had received since they went off to war.

"This is great," says Mark S., an HVAF veteran who is in the Residential Employment Substance Abuse Treatment program (REST). "It's been a long time since I've had a formal photo taken and it makes me feel good."

Not all of the event's 40 volunteers were photographers. There were 6 hair and makeup artists from LaDolce Salon and Spa based in Carmel, Ind., Red Carpet Reflection based in Carmel, Ind., and Looking Glass Salon, based in Rensselaer, Ind., who worked to help ensure everyone looked and felt their best.

"I've been collecting items for one month leading up to this event, including houseware and clothing for veterans at HVAF," says Kim Walden, owner and hair stylist of Looking Glass Salon. "It's just great to give back and be able to help someone is an incredible feeling."

“They are seeing themselves in a new light and these veterans are proud of what they see,” adds one local photographer. “The gift of a portrait is just amazing. The women walk out with a smile or stand up a little taller. It’s an amazing gift for me and for them.”

"I'm fortunate to be able to give back as well," says Bryan Banhill, a local photographer. "These veterans are excited to receive a portrait. It's just a nice way to give back."

The day ended with a lot of smiles. Some took photos with grandchildren while others reunited with uncles and cousins. Many say they'll be mailing their portrait as a holiday gift to family members they do not see often.


HVAF of Indiana, Inc. distributes turkeys to homeless veterans

While millions of Americans this week travel near and far to visit family, hundreds of thousands of homeless veterans will be walking into shelters and soup kitchens on Thanksgiving.

One woman wants to make sure each veteran has a warm meal. Each year Louise Loyd, an HVAF of Indiana, Inc. board member, makes a special donation to HVAF allowing for the purchase of enough turkeys and thanksgiving fixings for veterans in all eighteen HVAF transitional housing properties.

HVAF Case Manager, Brian Andree (Andree), was the lucky guy tasked with distributing the truck load of food items on Tuesday.

"For me distributing Thanksgiving meals to the different scattered site houses was a very rewarding experience," says Andree. "As a case manager I expect a lot from the clients, and this was an excellent way of saying thank you for your service and your achievements while in the HVAF program."

Darrel D., an Army veteran, who came to HVAF in need of housing in January 2011 received a turkey. He is also the Newton House Manager. "I'm thankful for warm housing and a great case manager," says Darrel. "I'll spend the holidays with a great group of vets."

Richard B., a Marine Corps veteran, has been living in HVAF's Lyter House since August 2011 after completing the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) program.

"I'm thankful for HVAF's housing and a second chance. They really helped me out," says Richard.

HVAF of Indiana, Inc. provides free transitional housing to more than 200 homeless veterans for up to two years while the veteran works to become self-sufficient.


Vets struggle to find work after war

Military veterans returning from war are having a difficult time looking for work in this tough economy. 12% of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are currently unemployed.

WTHR, the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, Ind., sat down with a veteran who is currently living in one of HVAF's transitional housing properties, to discuss the struggles of finding work after coming home from combat.

View the story at this link:
Vets struggle to find work after war - 13 WTHR

UPDATE: The day after the story aired Jon was offered and accepted a job at a local bakery.

A thank-you message on Veterans Day

Today, there are 1,426,713 military service men and women currently on active duty with the four branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Tonight, there are 76,000 military veterans nationwide that will have no bed to sleep in, because they are homeless.

Of those homeless veterans, 900 live in Indianapolis, Ind., where HVAF of Indiana, Inc. supports programs aimed at helping them return to self sufficiency.

On this Veterans Day 2011, HVAF is proud to work with homeless veterans and honors all who serve and have served our country.


Homeless Female Vet Population Rises

"He has changed my life," Gloria says of her 2-year-old rescue cat named Ginger.

Two tours as a Naval aviator left Gloria in a state of anxiety, and war has made her wary of crowds - and even of individuals who got a little too close.

"I tense up and get really uneasy," says Gloria, who struggles with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Gloria represents a growing trend among veterans. Across the country, women now make up between three to six percent of the homeless veteran population, according to National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. While their numbers may still be small compared to their male counterparts, women veterans face the same problems.

"People think we're strong coming out of the military and should have our stuff together," says Gloria. "It gets really hard. Some people don't know where to go, what to do, especially when you have PTSD."

Gloria once held a high-level government job in law enforcement, but at 45-years-old, found that she was going through unexplained upheaval and irritability.

"I thought it was menopause, but I was having a mental breakdown," says Gloria.

Brenda Finnell, an HVAF case manager who works with Gloria, says a significant challenge for female veterans include lack of available housing for themselves and their children.

"I think once we reach them we can do a really thorough job of providing assistance and resources," says Brenda.

Gloria, who was homeless for four years, now lives in HVAF's Moreau House, and spends her days gardening, rescuing cats and meeting daily with case managers.

"We are seeing more women who need help with housing," says Kalisha Hayes, HVAF housing specialist. "Those who have served this nation shouldn't find themselves on the streets."

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki tells HVAF that women are a priority in the larger fight on veteran homelessness. A total of $10.3 million in grants presented this year will be shared with organizations, including HVAF, in eleven states to benefit homeless women veterans, including women with children, elderly women, or those who may be terminally ill.

HVAF is helping Shinseki and the VA meet this goal by opening another property that serves female veterans.

Jane, an Army veteran, is one of the first of the veterans to move in last month to Manchester Apartments, HVAF's newest property. Manchester is the second HVAF co-ed housing location along with Moreau House.

"It's tough out there for women veterans so I am thankful for this new chapter in my life," says Jane.

Jane is working and plans to return to school to finish her degree in social work.

"I feel safe in this place. I am in control of my life," says Jane. "I am no longer in an abusive situation."