New HVAF program emphasizes family support

2011 was a rough year for Bridget. She found herself nearly homeless with no other options to help her and her family survive. Feeling this overwhelming burden, Bridget found out about the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) at hvaf.org.

“After losing my job, I was near homeless and I couldn’t afford to pay rent.” Bridget says, “There wasn’t any other help.”

HVAF saw a need in the community for its SSVF program. In mid-October Gretchen Cottrell, HVAF’s Director of Programs and Services, traveled to a conference in San Diego to learn how it could not only help the individual homeless veteran but the entire family.

“I went with an open mind,” says Cottrell. “HVAF and the Homeless Initiative Program (HIP) are the only 2 organizations in Indiana that have received Veterans Affairs (VA) funding to provide SSVF.”

SSVF launched in mid-October and is the first VA funded grant specifically designed to help homeless or near homeless veterans and their families reach stability through case management and financial assistance. As a result of this new program, Jennifer Smith and Rachel Stump were hired as new HVAF case managers.

“The need is great,” says Jennifer. “Through this program, we are able to help entire families, like Bridget, with monthly rent, financial budgeting, job searching, and setting goals.”

Bridget has been married 4 years to her husband Sammie and has a son, Isaiah. In 2008, she served 9 months with the Army National Guard in Iraq.

“I was used to doing everything on my own.” Bridget says, “This program has allowed me to get the help that I need to find a job and become financially stable.”

Bridget is currently a student studying
hotel and restaurant management.

“Now I don’t have to worry about how I am going to pay my rent. I can focus on finding a job and finishing school.”

More information on the SSVF program and a full list of qualifications can be found at hvaf.org.



HVAF of Indiana, Inc. Volunteer Spotlight

A longtime supporter of veterans' causes, Becky O'Conner dedicates much of her personal time to giving back.

"My father was a veteran and I have a lot of respect for his service to our country," says Becky.

Becky has been a member of Auxiliary Post 497 for 13 years. When she was elected auxiliary president her passion was in helping veterans. She searched for local organizations that did just that and found HVAF of Indiana, Inc. Then, Becky put a plan in place, with support of her members, and met with an HVAF staffer to see how they can contribute.

"We decided that we would adopt 2 veterans and their families for Christmas," says Becky. "We provided food and gifts for the veterans, both single father's, who could not afford a Christmas on their own. We also teamed up with Peggy Mcelfresh of St. Ann's Church. They provided clothing and toys for these families."

Becky and her group have adopted HVAF veteran families two years in a row and plan to do it again next year. She also helped spread awareness about HVAF by speaking in front of a number of organizations.

"It’s just a humbling experience," says Becky. "It just makes me feel good to know that HVAF is here to help veterans. It warms my heart because I have seen some of the hardships veterans can face after service."

Becky's interests in helping veterans continue to grow as she volunteers weekly. On Tuesday's and Thursday’s, Becky volunteers in HVAF's Outreach Center sorting and stocking donations that come in.

"We wouldn't have the freedoms that we have now if it wasn't for veterans," says Becky. "That's why I do what I do."

Whether it is adopting veteran families or volunteering in the Outreach Center, Becky's contributions have made a lasting impact on the community. For more information on volunteer opportunties visit hvaf.org.


HVAF of Indiana, Inc. client William W. on his new path for the New Year

As a boy William W. lost his mother.

“My childhood wasn’t easy. I felt like my world ended when my mother passed away,” William says. “I went to live with my extended family but felt like I never fit in, because I thought that my family never loved me the way my mother loved me.”

After high school, William joined the Marines, serving in Japan, the Philippines and Korea from 1983-87. But upon his return to civilian life, he was still consumed by the pain of his childhood. He became addicted to alcohol and was homeless.
“I tried to fit in everywhere,” says William. “But my addiction to alcohol prevented me from making any deep connections with people for 30 years.”

After decades of running from his troubles, William is now running towards a brighter future with help from HVAF of Indiana, Inc. and its partner organization, Back on My Feet.

“I had not run since I left the service and frankly I was out of shape,” William says.

With Back on My Feet, which announced its collaboration with HVAF in March of 2011, William and other Central Indiana veterans who have experienced homelessness are learning self-sufficiency and building confidence through long-distance group running.

“I am bettering myself by training with the guys every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30 a.m.,” William says. “It’s an early start, but I feel motivated and productive the rest of the day.”

“William has come a long way in learning to believe in himself,” says Brian Meyer, Back on My Feet program director. “He will be successful at anything he chooses because he’s motivated.”

William joined HVAF in June 2011 and works with a case manager and a peer mentor, Fred Young, to build a better future. Shortly after coming to HVAF, William began his regular running schedule with Back on My Feet. Already, he is serving as the team captain of his running group, which gives him additional responsibilities like motivating other runners towards success.

“I’m charting a new path in the New Year, and it includes sobriety and plenty of exercise,” Williams says.

William plans to compete in the Carmel Marathon on April 21, 2012. It will be his first marathon.