A Homeless Female Veteran’s Journey to Take Back Her Life

Leah T. thinks about her struggles — the two years she was alone and homeless — and the long suffering in silence from the verbal abuses she endured in the US Army. It’s a trigger – the memory of the abuse, she explained – that brings her back to the places she’s longed to forget.

“I was 21 years old when a male soldier in Seoul Korea verbally abused me and I reported the incident and those memories are still fresh in my mind,” says Leah. “It got so stressful that I almost had a miscarriage,” adds Leah. “I was transferred to a less stressful job collecting items needed for incoming soldiers.”

Leah T. at HVAF
A year later, Leah traveled to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and gave birth to her healthy baby girl. However, employment prospects seemed bleak and Leah became homeless in 2012. She entered HVAF supportive housing.

 “I like to think that I am not homeless here at HVAF because I have all these resources that I need,” she says. “When I am able to move on to permanent housing, HVAF has a program (SSVF) that will help me purchase a bed and a couch,” she says.

Today, Leah continues to utilize HVAF housing and is also an active runner with Back on My Feet, a national nonprofit organization that promotes self-sufficiency through running.

Haircuts for the Homeless

When Bill Bledsoe isn’t running his own business named “A Mobile Barber”, he can be found roaming the city streets, offering sophisticated trims to those who need it most.

“There is so much negativity in this world today,” Bledsoe says, “and I just simply wanted to bring some positive energy and hope into this world.”

Bill said he’s been offering free haircuts to HVAF veterans since May 2008 when the shop was set up. He was first introduced to HVAF by Past Board Chairman Steve Benz. Bill helped get items donated for the shop and also donated his own items, but in 2012 health related issues prevented him from volunteering at HVAF once a week.

Bill Bledsoe at HVAF
“My most vivid memory of one particular veteran’s reaction was a simple smile,” Bledsoe said. “He was a recovery addict and so shy and rarely made eye contact with anybody. He looked extremely rough and callused. During his haircut, he looked upset the entire time and didn't look up once, until the cut was complete.”

The veterans HVAF serves all have different circumstances and Bill says he stays connected with the ones he meets.

“I have stayed in contact with a lot of the veterans at HVAF through Facebook and I even got invited to a wedding!” says Bill. “If we all do one random act of kindness daily, we just might set the world in the right direction.”

A simple act of kindness goes a long way to helping a homeless veteran.

Jesse’s Story

Jesse at HVAF
Jesse’s approach to life is simple; keep moving. The 52-year-old Air Force veteran says he started drinking heavily after his marriage ended and without a job or income he became homeless but his spirits remained high. “Where there seems to be no way, I will knock a domino down and make a bridge,” says Jesse who reflects on his love of playing dominoes.  In 2013, Jesse stayed in a day shelter where he would begin each day inside the Indianapolis Public Library using a computer to look for available resources offered to veterans. It was then he learned about HVAF and its services for veterans. HVAF provided Jesse with supportive housing, case management and help with his recovery through its Residential Employment Substance Abuse Treatment (REST) program. Last month, Jesse graduated from the recovery program. Jesse says he’s building greater confidence at HVAF and bonding with other veterans who are in similar situations. With HVAF’s guidance, Jesse was referred to the IU School of Dentistry and provided dental service and in 2015 he hopes to receive dentures. HVAF also has helped Jesse qualify for free eye glasses through the Indianapolis Eye Care Clinic. He is an avid runner with Back on My Feet, a national organization that helps promote self-sufficiency through running. These days, Jesse has some pep in his step and there’s a good reason why. He is employed full-time at Methodist Hospital and plans to go back to school. In his mind, dominoes are the perfect building blocks to keep moving in life.


HVAF participates in annual Veterans Day Parade

HVAF board members, staff and clients participated in the annual Veterans Day Parade in Indianapolis to honor Hoosier veterans. Active and retired members of the armed forces were thanked for their service as they walked through the streets of Indianapolis.

View our Veterans Day slideshow.


Veteran recounts four years of recovery

Ralph at HVAF
Ralph with recovery coins
Ralph had $1.35 in his bank account. Then, things took a turn for the worse. On October 15, he shared his experiences in front of a room of homeless veterans at HVAF. Two years ago Ralph was a homeless veteran who relied on service and programs provided by HVAF. An addiction to alcohol and drugs contributed to his homelessness and in 2010 the Army veteran became a client at HVAF.

Ralph confided in the veterans recounting an altercation which led to his jail time and resulted in losing full custody of his daughter, Lakin. He says HVAF's recovery program helped him regain his independence, control his anger management and regain custody of his daughter. He was also able to get his driver's license reinstated.

"My Dad just celebrated being four years clean and sober and I am so proud," bursts bubbly nine-year-old Lakin.

Components of HVAF's recovery program - going to group meetings, learning life skills, finding a job and saving money - are designed to help him become self-sufficient.

There is a big smile on Ralph's face as he displays several gold coins that jingle in his pockets. Each coin is a symbol of one year sober. He clutches them tightly taking the coins everywhere and telling his story of recovery.

"My little princess reminds me all of the time why I work so hard to stay clean and sober," says Ralph. "I am still in recovery, but it's a choice I make daily to do what is right for me and my family. I had a long journey into sobriety, motivated in the beginning by several legal consequences."

Life has a tendency to take things away and present hardships as it did with Ralph but it also presents us with opportunities. Ralph has the opportunity to give back and encourage others.

Learn how you can help veterans, like Ralph, by visiting our website at hvaf.org.


Former HVAF leader inducted into Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame

Colonel Donald W. Moreau Sr. (USA-ret.), HVAF former President/CEO and board member,  was among sixteen veterans to be honored in the inaugural class of the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame (IMVHOF) on November 7, 2014. His distinguished military career and civil services spans almost seven decades. Don has led our country through wartime and his commitment to the cause of ending homelessness among veterans is unwavering and never-ending. 

During Saturday's induction ceremony, Don's military experience of bravery and courage was shared with the people of Indiana. 

Hundreds of previously homeless veterans all across the country owe a debt of gratitude to Don Moreau who epitomizes the Army retiree motto of "Still Serving". Don was a soldier, is a soldier and will always be a soldier.

In December 1998, Don was recruited to join the board of HVAF. He served on the HVAF board through June 1999. At that time, the executive director departed without a successor, so Don was recruited to be President/CEO. Under Don’s leadership HVAF grew dramatically. He was responsible for putting revenue streams in place that HVAF continues to have today. He also increased HVAF’s housing stock significantly. Don helped put together the public/private funding model HVAF has been using for most of its current acquisitions and initiated the first grant and per diem funding from the VA which was used to renovate the Carson Apartments which were a gift from Congresswoman Julia Carson. Don worked with Governor O'Bannon and then Lieutenant Governor Kernan to procure six homes along Warman Avenue, just east of the old Central State Hospital. In 2009, HVAF named one of its properties in honor of Don Moreau Sr. and today thirty-nine veterans call HVAF's Moreau Apartments home.

Learn more about Don's military accolades here.
Bill Moreau, HVAF Board Member with Don Moreau Sr. (from left to right)

Three veterans complete HVAF's recovery program

The room was filled with applause and even some tears, but they were tears of joy as three veterans recalled their past. On Friday, October 31, Joe N., Jesse W. and Matt T. received a certificate of completion from HVAF's Residential Employment Substance Abuse Treatment (REST) program.

Joe, Jesse and Matt (from left to right)
They were supported by family, friends, and HVAF staff. All three veterans were praised for completing the program, a recovery-dynamics based supportive housing program for homeless veterans whose primary goal is to maintain sobriety while obtaining employment and permanent housing.

Veterans receive individual and group counseling, psycho-educational classes and intensive case management.

These veterans also gave back through volunteer efforts at HVAF. Whether it was sorting donations or serving up a warm meal each had contributed roughly 30 service hours.

"It works if you want it," says Joe. "I came here desperate and I asked for help and got it. I couldn't do it by myself and now it's about how I can help others."

Jesse, 52, an Air Force veteran says the loss of a loved one led to his homelessness and he entered HVAF housing in June 2013. He now works at Methodist Hospital and plans to go back to school at Ivy Tech. Veterans at HVAF are referred to the IU School of Dentistry to provide dentistry to those who need it most. In the New Year, Jesse will receive dentures. HVAF has also helped Jesse qualify for free eye glasses.

He credits his success through running with Back on My Feet (BOMF), a national program which helps promote self-sufficiency through running. Joe and Matt also participate in Back on My Feet.

"HVAF got me through to the path I needed to succeed in life," says Jessie.

Matt was 23 years old when he entered the U.S. Army for the opportunity it provided him to attend college. After leaving the military, Matt worked as Deputy Assessor at the Washington Township Assessor’s Office in Indianapolis. It was after accepting a job transfer to Evansville, Indiana, which took him far from family and friends, that depression began to consume him.

“I felt like a lonely man on an island,” Matt says. 

Alcohol addiction led to job loss which led to Matt's homelessness. Today, he gives thanks to the HVAF program and staff.

"HVAF REST Coordinator Fred Young has also been an example of what cleaning living can produce," says Matt. "With God's help I have more hope, more blessings and more confidence."

Fred Young of HVAF, Joe (REST graduate) and Curtis Williamson of HVAF

Fred Young of HVAF, Matt (REST graduate) and Curtis Williamson of HVAF

Fred Young of HVAF, Jesse (REST graduate) and Curtis Williamson of HVAF