Living a life of recovery

Even after Milton T. moved out of HVAF transitional housing and into his own apartment, he still returns to HVAF at least three days each week to attend HVAF's Vet to Vet meetings.

The former Army recruiter and veteran spent 15 years moving up the ranks of the military and gaining more responsibility along the way. Once he finished his time in the Army, Milton encountered many difficulties transitioning back to civilian life. In September of 2011, after being in and out of treatment facilities, Milton came to HVAF, after facing more than a decade of drug use that led to homelessness.

"I told myself that Indianapolis was my last stop," says Milton. "I was tired of moving around and chasing dreams. Just before coming to HVAF, I moved in with my granddaughter for several months. It was at that time, I realized I wanted to be good role model to her and the rest of my family."

Milton is one of 15 veterans who meet each week. HVAF's Vet to Vet program began in October of 2005, as a way for veterans to address issues that may arise within the home. When a veteran is admitted to the program, there are weekly meetings to discuss issues that may be affecting their lives.

"Many of the veterans share personal stories about the difficulties they face while trying to find employment in the community," says Fred Young, HVAF's peer mentor.

“We discuss how to handle stressful situations without losing everything they worked hard for and at the same time how to feel accepted among family and friends. One of the hardest barriers that some of the residents have is relapsing back to alcohol and/or substances. Vet to Vet is focused on one veteran helping another through sharing personal experiences and understanding of what the other is going through.”

During Vet to Vet meetings, Milton talks about his time living on the streets of Brooklyn where he says his drug addiction hit rock bottom. He also suffered a head injury during basic training in 1975 that went untreated, and he now receives medical care at the VA Hospital.

"2012 is a new start for me," says Milton. "Moving into HVAF's Warman Apartments and being amongst veterans has helped me understand my past and want to change my future. Attending Vet to Vet meetings has helped provide me with structure."

Milton continues to live a life of recovery. He's been drug and alcohol free for 9



U.S. Representative Todd Rokita visits HVAF of Indiana, Inc.

U.S. Representative Todd Rokita of Indiana's 4th District sat down with HVAF's President & CEO Dr. Charles Haenlein, HVAF staff, and veterans on Thursday, February 23, 2012, to learn more about the organization and its programs.

Representative Rokita heard from staff about the rise in younger veterans experiencing homelessness as well as the causes of homelessness, including lack of affordable housing and drug and alcohol addiction.

Also, Representative Rokita learned about HVAF programs, specifically Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF), which helps not only the individaul veteran but the entire family. SSVF 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.

During a tour of HVAF, Rep. Rokita walked through HVAF's Residential Employment, Substance Abuse, Treatment program where 22 veterans are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Rep. Rokita also met army veteran Bob M. who had been homeless for nearly three months before coming to HVAF. 

"I was a truck driver and lost my job due to an accident," Bob told Representative Rokita. "Simce coming to HVAF my life is much better. Also, I'm a member of the Residence Council, a new group tasked with helping 51 veterans living at HVAF's newest transitional housing, Manchester Apartments.

"Each veteran has a different story," says Dr. Haenlein. "It's all different but all the same. These veterans are trying to get back on their feet and HVAF is here to help them during their transition."


New running team for HVAF of Indiana, Inc. veterans

Homeless veterans, who are provided housing and other basic needs through HVAF of Indiana, Inc., will lace up their running shoes to take part in a new running program, and their first run is scheduled at 5:45 a.m. on Monday, February 27, at HVAF headquarters in Downtown Indianapolis, 964 N. Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204. The goal isn't to cross the finish line first but to gain self-sufficiency through running.

Over the past eleven months, Back on My Feet and HVAF have developed a strong partnership. HVAF recently opened Manchester Apartments, a fifty-one bed facility, connected to HVAF headquarters. The Residential, Employment, and Substance Abuse Treatment Program (REST) is also connected to HVAF headquarters and is a twenty-two bed intensive, highly structured supportive housing program that addresses addictions and recovery for homeless veterans. Veterans who live in the Manchester Apartments and those in the REST program will both be given the opportunity to join the new team. Runners meet each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5:30 a.m. for six to nine months.

President & CEO of HVAF, Dr. Charles Haenlein, can already see the value of this partnership. “Partnering with Back on My Feet has been beneficial in uplifting and motivating HVAF homeless veteran clients. The determination of these veterans is a sight to see. Back on My Feet has not only provided an opportunity to HVAF clients, but it has also allowed them to individually commit to running towards self-sufficiency.”

The new team will launch with twelve veterans experiencing homelessness and thirty volunteer runners. HVAF Teams Warman, Manchester and Team Progress House will join together to celebrate the beginning of the journey toward self-sufficiency for the new members. There will be over 100 people in attendance at the first run on February 27, 2012.

Learn more about the running program in the February 21, 2012, Indy Star article.


HVAF joins Ranger on last mile to raise awareness for homeless vets

HVAF veterans ran alongside 28-year-old Cpl. Cory Smith, who had just finished a 565-mile bike and run trek in 28 days from Columbus, Ga. to Indianapolis, Ind., in an effort to raise awareness of veteran issues, such as homelessness.

Cpl. Smith, who faced his own marital difficulties after two deployments to Afghanistan, said combat veterans in particular can face divorce, homelessness, unemployment and suicide upon returning home. Smith just completed four years of military service and is returning to civilian life.

"It means a lot to be here today," says Lee W., a navy veteran and HVAF client who is photographed left. Lee came to HVAF in 2009 in need of housing, and had a strong desire to change his life around.

"I know what it's like to struggle with the transition from military life to civilian life," says Lee. "I appreciate what Cory is doing in showing the hardships us veterans face. We should support each other."

Lee, who served in the Navy from 1982-1990, returned to Indianapolis, Ind. and struggled to find a job. "I stayed with friends until I learned about HVAF. I am fortunate to have received transitional housing at HVAF's Warman Apartments."

An HVAF case manager is helping Lee with goal-setting as he works to become self-sufficient.

The corporal was not only surrounded by HVAF veterans and Back on My Feet runners, but also family members and city officials who applauded his efforts in running the 565 mile trek. Smith was re-united with 20-month-old daughter, Elleigh, whom he held in his arms throughout much of the ceremony on Monument Circle.

Read more about the event in the February 9, 2012, feature story in the Indianapolis Star.


Ralph's road to recovery

A father to 6-year-old daughter Lakin, Ralph M. came to HVAF near homeless, separated from his family, and determined to recover from addiction and one day gain full-custody of his daughter.

Ralph served in the U.S. Air Force as a Security Police Training Officer for just 84 days before suffering from kidney complications while in basic training. He was given an honorable medical discharge. In May of 2010, while picking flowers with his daughter, Ralph got into a dispute with a man.

“Child Services took my daughter away from me as a result of the dispute,” says Ralph. “It was devastating and one of the worse days of my life. I had a cocaine addiction and also turned to alcohol, and when this happened I insulated myself even further.”

Ralph knew he had to change his life around in order to one day gain full-custody of his daughter again, who was temporarily living with his oldest son. Ralph checked into a nearby hospital and it was there that someone recommended he turn to HVAF of Indiana, Inc. and its Residential, Employment, Substance Abuse, Treatment program, known as REST, for help.

“I quit drinking on October 12, 2010, and then entered HVAF’s recovery program,” says Ralph. “I needed this to change my life around. I worked hard in the REST program and graduated from the program 14 months later on December 7, 2011. It was one of the best days of my life.”

Ralph's life continued to get better. On February 2, 2012, after a lengthy court battle, Ralph was granted full-custody of his daughter. Ralph’s face lights up when he talks about his daughter and daughter is equally excited.

“My daddy has worked really hard to get me back,” says Lakin.

Ralph was speechless.

“I am overjoyed,” says Ralph, “I love this little girl and I want to see her graduate from high school one day. I can’t do that drinking and doing the things I once did. The REST program has changed me. I now have my own apartment and job, and am a father to my daughter. I want to be a good example for her, and I will be clean and sober.”

Amanda Ellingwood, an HVAF case manager, worked with Ralph to achieve his goals and help him become self-sufficient.

“I am so proud of Ralph,” says Amanda Ellingwood, who was at the court hearing to support Ralph along with 7 other REST clients. “He was granted reunification with his daughter after 21 months. It’s a great day for him and an example that the REST program helps veterans. Ralph has obtained employment, graduated from the REST program and has maintained sobriety. We are very proud of Ralph.”

Couple reunites at HVAF of Indiana, Inc.

Joel and Candy reunite under one roof 
Joel, a U.S. Army veteran, and his fiancĂ© Candy were near homeless. Running out of money and hope, Joel was sleeping on his son’s couch. They were madly in love and newly engaged but living apart.

HVAF of Indiana helped unite them by providing transitional housing at its Paul House property and today they are happily living under one roof. Housing was provided to the couple through the Supportive Services for Veteran and Families (SSVF) program which helps veterans and their families reach stability through case management and financial assistance. Clients receive assistance with financial budgeting, job searching and goal setting.

“We moved in to this house in early February and it was very emotional to finally be living together,” says the 59-year-old. “Things got bad when we lost our jobs and my health declined and and then we both fell on hard times.”

Joel served in the U.S. Army for 12 years. He was drawn to the military because of the structure and sense of adventure it provided. A former truck driver, Joel returned home to Indianapolis where challenges mounted.

When Joel came to HVAF in October of 2011 he qualified for the SSVF program. He could not pay his rent and was near homeless. HVAF was there to help.

Supportive housing at HVAF
But getting the Paul House move-in ready was a work in progress.

“It was a collaboration of individual and community efforts to renovate the Paul House,” says Ron Shelley, HVAF’s chief operating officer.

In 2009, the property was donated to HVAF and shortly thereafter it was badly vandalized. HVAF maintenance re-painted and re-carpeted each room.”

Longtime HVAF supporter Bob Peel put his heart behind the project and helped secure donations. Volunteers renovated the property. The community also joined in.

“I don’t have a vehicle, but that’s the least of my worries now,” says Joel. I have a roof over my head and I’m living with the woman I love. That’s all I need, really.”

The couple plans to beautify the Paul House in the spring and plant flowers in the garden.

HVAF would like to thank the following community partners:
Robin Paul & Family for the generous donation of the Paul House
The Bank of New York Mellon for its donation of $2,680 for the Paul House roof.
Eli Lilly and Company for gutting and overall renovation of the property.
IPL for its participation in the United Way of Central Indiana Day of Caring. As a result, the group built the deck, created a memory garden, painted, and supplied flowers for the yard.