Volunteers renovate home for six veterans

On February 25, thirty Team Depot volunteers renovated HVAF's Lyter House, a transitional home for six veterans. Volunteers installed flooring, cabinets, countertops and appliances as well as painted several rooms. The new floor plan of the kitchen makes the space more usable.
HVAF houses more than 200 homeless veterans and the Lyter House is one of fifteen properties. The renovation work is part of a $10,500 grant from the Home Depot.

The floor plan of the kitchen is going to be changed to make it more usable. Today, HVAF houses more than 200 homeless veterans in 15 properties scattered throughout Indianapolis.

Chris M., 55, an Air Force veteran said he was thrilled when he found. "It's been such a long road from homelessness to housing, it's unbelievable," Chris said. I came down from Terre Haute and had to leave my family to find work and got stranded down here and that led to being homeless.”

Chris is feeling better than ever and is optimistic about his future and focusing on a job search now that he has a roof over his head.

The effort is part of Home Depot's commitment to veterans with a focus on fixing up the homes of veterans across the country.

Media from four local Television news outlets along with the Indianapolis Star covered the story.

HVAF program helps Indiana veteran get help paying past debts

There was a time Dorian planned on saving and building his nest egg and a time when he accepted the sacrifice and served our country as a member of the U.S. Army. The pay, benefits and tuition assistance appealed to the young recruit, now forty, but more than twenty years after his service he found himself digging out of debt.

In 1996 Dorian got involved with the wrong crowd and was arrested for carrying a firearm. After serving time in jail he struggled to find work and faced unemployment.

“It’s not an excuse. It’s a nod to reality,” says Dorian. “I wasn’t prepared for the “what if’s.”

There were a lot of times and struggles.

So what happened?

Dorian called HVAF in January 2014 and learned that he qualified for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, a rapid re-housing and prevention program targeted towards veterans and veteran families and which prevents veterans from becoming chronically homeless.

His Case Manager, Tom Tuttle, was able to help him remain in stable housing and push through financial barriers. First, Dorian was able to pay his probation fees with the help of the National Veterans Service Fund (NVSF). The next day, Dorian went to his Parole Officer to get the required paperwork needed to relinquish his debt of $708.

“I would have been homeless if it wasn’t for HVAF,” says Dorian. “It’s a tremendous relief to now have this financial burden lifted so that I can focus on paying my rent, gas, light, and food. Had it not been for HVAF I would still be struggling.”

The SSVF program funds paid Dorian’s first month’s rent and deposit as well as his utility deposit which is significant for a veteran who is working to get back on his feet.

 “Dorian gained employment and is a good example of veterans who achieve success in the SSVF program and he knows that if you work hard good things can happen,” says Tom.

Today, Dorian no longer has to worry about where he will sleep or how he will pay his bills. He lives in a 2-bedroom house in Northwest Indianapolis. In 2015, the SSVF program will assist 450 families.

Veterans succeed at HVAF through employment: More than just landing a job

George at HVAF
More than fifteen years after his service in the U.S. Army and repeated bouts of homelessness, George, 48, turned to HVAF for help with housing. Case Manager Sarah Reed began the process of assessing his job barriers, first by looking at any disabilities he might have. He was assessed by psychologists obtained with the help of Easter Seals Crossroads which helps meet the needs with people with disabilities. To further his goal of becoming employed, he qualified for the Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS), a program of the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) which provides quality individualized services to enhance and support people with disabilities to prepare for, obtain or retain employment.

And it came to pass, that in process of meetings with his case manager and psychologists, after the end of two years George found a job that he enjoys.

“It brings meaning to my life and has helped build my self-esteem because now I am being held accountable,” says George. “I begin my workday with purpose and I want to be self-sufficient and make enough money to pay my bills, save for the future, as well as buy a few model trains which is my hobby.”

Walmart is one of many companies that value a veteran workforce. The company values George’s work each day. The company is committed to hiring 100,000 veterans by 2018.

George is thankful to have a job. Indiana ranks as one of the worst states for veteran unemployment according to Consumer and only 50% of military respondents surveyed reported that they had set aside funds sufficient to cover expenses for three months in case of emergency.

George’s future includes planning and saving.

He is enrolled in HVAF’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and has been working with Tom Tuttle since January. George is applying for apartments, and when he decides which apartment he would like to live in, SSVF will be assisting financially.

George will receive case management while enrolled in SSVF to help with the transition into permanent housing.

A feeling of abandonment leads to life changes

Whitney at HVAF

A graduation from HVAF's recovery program in March 2015 will serve as a milestone for Whitney of what can happen when a program frees him of his barriers and takes him places he only once imagined. Whitney knew early in life that he wanted to serve his country and celebrated his 18th birthday at boot camp. The following three years, beginning in 1970, were spent in U.S. Army. 

His exposure to drugs and alcohol intensified. After his service, he attended the American Business College in San Diego, California and received a degree in Automotive Technology. Whitney accepted a job at Allison Transmission in Indianapolis where he worked as skilled assembler for fourteen years before taking a buyout in 1992. 

Whitney was able to start his own business, an auto shop, which was a dream, but his struggles with alcoholism and drugs were never far behind. His checking account emptied out. His business closed. Whitney was homeless.

“One night I did not make it to the mission in time and I had to sleep outside. I had no choice but to sleep on the street," says Whitney.

Whitney decided to change his life around with help from HVAF. He learned about HVAF’s Residential, Employment, Substance Abuse Treatment (REST) program. The program’s 12-step recovery curriculum became his last attempt to become clean and sober. He entered the program on July 7, 2014.

“The REST program was definitely a spiritual awakening for me,” says Whitney. “First of all I read the AA book for the first time and frankly I knew I had a problem but didn’t know how to treat it. I also established a personal connection with God and that has given me strength.”

“I want to shower my kids with love because I don’t want what happened to me happen to them. I was raised in a dysfunctional family and had a lot of rejection and I didn’t want to feel them and so I self-medicated and made poor choices," adds Whitney. "I now have a network of people to call when I feel week. At HVAF, I am held accountable with regular weekly meetings. Being clean and sober feels like a fog has been lifted. I no longer remember the reasons why I turned to drugs and alcohol in the first place. It is very important to me to get closer to my kids and regain their trust," adds Whitney.

Whitney has been clean and sober for two years. He is working with Mark Lykins, a case manager at HVAF, and has secured permanent housing and support through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. 


Grant helps HVAF veterans in recovery

In January, the REALTOR® Foundation presented HVAF with a check for $6,000 to support our Residential, Employment, Substance Abuse Treatment (REST) program.

REST is a recovery-dynamics based supportive housing program. The program’s goal is to maintain sobriety while obtaining employment and permanent housing while veterans receive individual and group counseling, psycho-educational classes and intensive case management.

This was the first time HVAF applied for this grant for their REST program in which it was approved. Our mission is one the REALTOR® Foundation stands behind as the Foundation works to mobilize the real estate community to raise funds and foster support for organizations that transition central Indiana’s homeless into safe and secure housing. 

“The REALTOR® Foundation is proud to be a part of local efforts to reduce homelessness among our nation’s heroes,” says REALTOR® Foundation Manager Gabie Benson. “Although many cities have made tremendous strides towards reducing veterans’ homelessness, Indianapolis continues to be a community that is working towards that goal.”

Homeless veteran receives employment services at HVAF

Michael S., 47, had been looking for work for several months.

"My resume was outdated and needed a lot of work and there was time when I didn’t work which created a glaring gap in my resume," the Army veteran said.

Michael is not alone. In Indiana the unemployment rate for veterans in 2013 was 6.7% and the post 9/11 veterans unemployment rate is 16.9% according to the Bureau Department of Labor.
This is where HVAF stepped in to help.

At HVAF, Employment Specialists like Chasiti Herring are tapping into the job market and connecting vets with work. Michael, who came to HVAF for housing in February 2014, says the organization has helped give him renewed confidence to face the job market - and a chance to get what he wants.

Michael at HVAF
Chasiti began an ongoing search to find a good match for Michael and also took him to a job fair which allowed him to get before several prospective employers. She also drove him to several interviews in and around the city. After updating his resume, Michael received calls from 20 employers. He landed two jobs at Employment Specialist Partner and Reserve Network where he works in the packaging department.

“I couldn’t believe I was able to find work again with the help of HVAF,” says Michael.

In January, HVAF hired two additional employment specialists to work with Chasiti.

Employment specialists help veterans overcome barriers that stand between them and a stable, secure life. The emphasis on helping homeless veterans get and retain jobs is enhanced through many linkages and coordination with various veterans' services programs.

"It's canvassing the area, looking for new markets, companies that are coming in," said Chasiti. “Finding work is an important part of building back confidence and pride and sustaining independence.”

Michael’s Case Manager Jerrika Pence has noticed positive changes in him.

“When Michael first arrived at HVAF he was actively seeking a job. Since I’ve known him, he takes his jobs very serious and displays his good work ethic by holding down two jobs for quite some time now. I never hear Mr. Smith complain about anything or ever miss any work,” says Jerrika.

“HVAF’s housing program and its resources such as employment assistance can change your life if you let it,” says Michael. “It changed mine.”

Last year, 140 veterans met with an Employment Specialist at HVAF and 72% of clients successfully obtained employment with the assistance of HVAF’s employment services.

Blanket Drive for homeless veterans at HVAF

Hadley Family Dentistry will distribute 100 blankets in February to veterans at HVAF as part of its Blanket the City with a Smile Drive. The dental team first learned about HVAF and its needs online.
New or existing patients will receive a $10 account credit for their donation. 

"We have some of the most thoughtful patients and they love to help us in all of our community relations events.," says Nicole Chappell of Hadley Family Dentistry.

“Blankets are always useful for not just our clients in the REST recovery program and transitional housing but they can be also used for outreach for those living in the streets and under the bridges at this time of year as well as for those veterans who are cold-natured,” says REST Coordinator Fred Young.

Blankets are being collected until February 13 at: South location Hadley Family Dentistry, 5406 S. Emerson Ave, Indianapolis, 46237 and North office is Hadley Dental, 9850 E. 79th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46256.

Veteran Provided a "Fresh Start"

Wayne at HVAF
For Wayne H., 56, getting out of the credit card hole was not easy. “I made poor choices like purchasing a new car,” says Wayne. “The interest payments became too high and I got way over my head…I basically owed $9,000 on a $2,000 car.”

Wayne admits the car was an impulse buy but one he needed in order to get to and from work.

Now a partnership between the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF) and the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic (NCLC) is giving more veterans at HVAF a chance receive the help they need. Wayne spent three months homeless before coming to HVAF in October 2013. Since then, the U.S. Army veteran has relied on HVAF transitional housing and services.

Wayne admits the car was an impulse buy but one he needed in order to get to and from work.

The Clinic has been working with Wayne H. since December, 2013. In January, the Clinic assisted Wayne in filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but first, Wayne attended both pre and post-bankruptcy classes to make sure he was making the best decision.

“Although it is always a last resort, filing bankruptcy provided Wayne with relief from approximately $52,000 of debt. Wayne is working full-time at the Indianapolis airport. This bankruptcy protected his wages from being garnished and provided Wayne with a fresh start financially,” says Brian Dunkel, attorney at the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.

Veterans seeking advice or legal representation in bankruptcy is approximately 25% of the intakes at HVAF so it is a significant portion. It provides short-term and long-term relief to a veteran by protecting wages from garnishment.

“I have noticed that wage garnishments often keep clients from self-sufficiency—there is just not enough money to cover rent, utilities, and food,” says Brian.

While federal laws severely restrict lenders from exploiting servicemen these days, some veterans may still have old “payday” loans, rent to own furniture bills or old auto loans they cannot pay. Even if the furniture or car was repossessed, a veteran could still legally owe the debt and unless a veteran has a great job or a healthy retirement plan, he will likely qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 is the most drastic but effective form of debt relief, as it permanently eliminates the veteran’s financial obligation to repay most debts. However, anyone filing Chapter 7 including a military service member cannot include some types of debt. Recent tax bills, child support, alimony, court fines or any debt related to a crime are ineligible for debt assistance.

Chapter 13 is another option for veterans who still have a decent income but just need a little help to get back on their financial feet. In Chapter 13, a court trustee supervises partial repayment of debts. It takes three to five years to finish a Chapter 13 plan, but during this time a debtor cannot get any new credit without a judge’s permission.

Filing bankruptcy is not a decision Wayne took lightly. However, it will provide a lot of financial relief as Wayne looks to the future on that will provide him with a fresh start.

“I am working on saving money and am off to a new start in 2015,” adds Wayne.

Efforts offer comfort at Christmastime

Even though Christmas has come and gone we would be remiss if we did not share with you the number of families impacted during the Christmas season.

When organizations contact HVAF directly about adopting families for Christmas, we make sure they are provided for. As a result of combined efforts in 2014, 79 families/individuals: 97 adults and 61 children = 158 total people!

Another way HVAF is able to assist even more families is through our partnership with the United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI). The UWCI’s United Christmas Service program is two-fold: 1. money raised by UWCI is distributed in the form of vouchers to families and individuals who just need a little extra help around the holidays and 2. a donor group program which allows groups to sign-up to sponsor families in the form of providing wrapped presents. The donor program is aimed at families, small businesses, and corporations that want to help people that have the highest need at Christmastime and who may not be able to provide Christmas for their families otherwise. Through the United Christmas Service, 62 families/individuals were provided for, including 36 adults.