Resume preparation workshop for veterans at HVAF

Veterans or military spouses have worlds of knowledge and experience, but may need practice depicting these skills in a resume. On March 12, HVAF held its second resume preparation workshop at its Moreau property and veterans gathered to learn how they can improve their resume. The veterans were given a presentation by Mark Bucherl of Roche Diagnostics Business Intelligence on the basics of resume creation.

“I'd heard of the work of HVAF and wanted to help somehow. I found out that veterans needed help with resume and interview skills and those are special strengths I've acquired,” says Mark Bucherl Marketing Manager, Analytics and Reporting at Roche Diagnostics Business Intelligence.

Workshops will be held at least twice a month alternating between Moreau and HVAF. Various speakers from companies from across Central Indiana will attend and share tips on creating effective resumes. Workshop lessons include professional experience in drafting and editing resumes, reviewing sample resumes and interview techniques.

“So far, we have had nine Veterans attend our two Resume Workshops that started just a few weeks ago. This is a service we are beginning to offer, but are very proud of it,” says HVAF’s Programs and Services Director, Bryan Dysert. “The goal of these workshops is to help the Veteran develop, improve, and/or polish a resume which will help the Veteran with their job hunting experience.”

Veterans and military spouses have specific skills and qualities - that benefit the employer and workforce, such as loyalty, maturity, leadership, integrity, focus, project and crisis management, solution-oriented approaches, motivation, initiative, respect, team attitude.

“There are many causes for homelessness, and we should look after and assist our fellow men and women where we are able,” adds Mark. “I feel strongly that we as Americans owe a special debt to veterans whose experience in military service may have been a factor in their homelessness. My father was in the army and was affected by what he experienced.”

Veterans at HVAF benefit from company meet and greet

Lowe's Meet and Greet at HVAF
Five Lowe’s Home Improvement Store call center employees visited HVAF on Friday, March 13, for a meet and greet with veterans who are interested in working for the company at its new call center located on the west side of Indianapolis.

The meet and greet provided an opportunity for veterans and employers to meet face-to-face to discuss available positions.

Four of the five Lowe’s employees in attendance are veterans and talked about their own personal experiences and what Lowe’s has to offer.

Employer ‘Meet and Greets’ are an opportunities for employers to share information to a group of veteran candidates regarding job openings, pay rates, benefits, training, etc. It’s a chance for interested candidates to meet one on one with recruiters and learn more about the employment opportunities at that particular company. The Employer Meet and Greet lasts for an hour.

“This opportunity provides a great value for our veterans who are exploring employment by linking them up with employers that are actively hiring,” says HVAF Employment Specialist Chasiti Herring. Veterans had the ability to network and learn about a company to better determine whether or not the position is a good fit. “Having recruiters come in made the experience very relatable for fellow veteran job seekers. Our veterans were able to learn how their military skills could translate to the employment opportunities that Lowe’s has available.”

HVAF is planning its next Meet and Greet for April.

Vietnam veteran finds his way at HVAF

Bill Merriweather on the job at HVAF
In the summer of 2002, Bill Merriweather, a Vietnam veteran, walked through the doors of Far From Home, now HVAF of Indiana, frightened, alone, and not knowing what to expect. He did know he had goals he was determined to achieve like living independently. Bill was determined to take advantage of anything HVAF had to offer to help make this happen but his struggles with alcoholism were never far behind. Through the years, Bill’s soft, thoughtful eyes have seen a long and hard struggle with intermittent homelessness.

“I drank too much and let alcohol take over my life and it led to homelessness,” says Bill.

Researchers have evaluated patterns of alcoholism among Vietnam era veterans and nonveterans and found that a greater proportion of Vietnam era veterans are currently heavy drinkers and a smaller proportion are abstainers, after simultaneous adjustment for seven demographic factors (age, region of the U.S., urbanization, ethnicity, marital status, education and income).

Bill began meeting his goals and will be sober 18 years this coming July, 2015.

In April of 2003, he came to work at HVAF as a Residential Aid (RA) for the Residential, Employment, Substance Abuse Treatment (REST) program. He works overnight (11pm-7am) and his responsibilities include hourly rounds to check in on the clients who are residing at the main building, answering after-hours phone calls, including reaching out to on-call case management and on-call maintenance if necessary, and ensuring that the building is safe and secure while providing a listening ear to his fellow veterans.

Bill no longer has a feeling of hopelessness or a sense of dread.

“Not knowing what was going to happen, just waiting, and just feeling helpless too often led to a lot of my concerns,” adds Bill. “But, working for HVAF has given me purpose and the routine is important in my life. I enjoy working with the veterans at HVAF and I encourage them to keep moving forward in their recovery because I was once in their shoes.”

Today, Bill is a positive, energetic and prideful man – as we spoke, he repeatedly smiled and talked about his new car and owning a new house. He is determined to maintain a sober and productive life. 

Three veterans graduate from HVAF's recovery program

Thomas (left), Stan (center) and Whitney (right)
We first introduced you to Whitney H. in our February e-newsletter. Homeless and in recovery he entered HVAF’s REST program in July 2014. On March 13, he joined fellow veterans Stan and Thomas in a graduation ceremony. The room was filled with family, friends, and supporters who listened to their accomplishments, struggles and successes in recovery.

“It takes commitment, patience and a lot of humility, and they are a testimony to all three of those qualities,” said Curtis Williamson, MSW, who helps run the REST program at HVAF of Indiana.

For Whitney, it’s a struggle he’s been dealing with for 30 years.

“I was a mess,” said the Army veteran. “I started off with beer, then liquor, then marijuana, then I went to cocaine… I started trying to get clean and sober since 1985 but I was rebellious. I thought I knew it all. I didn’t want to take any suggestions.”

When he graduated from REST, his ex-wife and friend Cynthia was there to see it happen.

“I was just overwhelmed with joy,” she said. “It’s been a long journey for Whitney and I’ve seen his struggle and today is definitely the highest point of his life. I’m very proud of him.”

 Whitney says you have to be ready to do some work and self-evaluation if you want to see change.
“There’s no wand or nothing that’s going to be waved over you and things are going to be alright. You’ve got to do some work, you got to want it,” adds Whitney. “It is the first time I really accomplished something in my life that I’m really proud of,” said Hamilton. “My final goal was to be clean and sober and that’s the way I plan to stay the rest of my life.”

Whitney is working with Mark Lykins, a case manager, at HVAF on a housing search. After he is accepted into a unit, Mark will enroll him in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program at HVAF and assist financially. He also will receive case management while enrolled in SSVF to help with the transition into permanent housing.

You can read more about Whitney’s journey through the REST program at

View the FOX59 story on Whitney here

The Power of Gratitude

Brian at HVAF
The best thank-yous are the unexpected ones, like the one Brian created for his participation in HVAF’s recovery program. He and other veterans created small individual gratitude trees in March and his words on each leaf are big and bold. In the process of creating the tree Brian discovered that gratitude is a deeper, more complex phenomenon that plays a critical role in human happiness. Gratitude is one of the few things that can measurably change peoples’ lives.  It’s changed his.

On the various leaves he has written: HVAF’s REST program, Back on My Feet, Family, God, Alcoholics
Anonymous (AA), Being Clean and Serene. He will keep it by his bed and watch it grown by adding other things he is thankful for.

This was all part of a project that REST Social Worker Curtis Williamson set up for the veterans currently in the recovery program.

“When anyone does a craft, or painting, or project like this they are mindfully working with their hands as a way to relieve stress, anxiety, and take the focus off of themselves and place it onto something else,” says Curtis. “And part of what we know about the recovery process is to be grateful for the big and small things.  The gratitude tree is a great way to really think about these things. It is a visual reminder that prompts us to think about why we should continue putting our best foot forward.” 

Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can increase happiness by 25%, reduce stress levels, and lead to a stronger immune system. Rather than focusing on negative and challenging things that take place in a day, spending just a few moments each day to “count your blessings” can make a real difference.

Brian entered the REST program for the second time on January 15, 2015 after being homeless for 3 months. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1989-1994. He enjoyed his time in the military but missed his family tremendously. He says his addictions affected his relationship with his only brother who recently visited him at HVAF for the first time in March after a rocky 10-year relationship.

He is looking forward to completing REST, graduating from the program, and eventually securing permanent housing.


HVAF of Indiana teams with the City of Indianapolis for new call center

HVAF of Indiana is teaming with the City of Indianapolis and Mayor Greg Ballard to create and sustain a new call center that will connect homeless veterans to community service providers offering shelter, rehabilitation, training and other services.

The call center will operate 24 hours a day all seven days of the week. The city will respond to calls each day, veterans should call (317) 327-4VET (4838). Calls will be routed to HVAF from 5pm - 9am.

“When our veterans are living on the streets and exposed to the elements, the potential for crises exists around the clock, and this call center partnership is being established ensures our veterans can connect with potentially life-saving services whether it’s one in the afternoon or 1 a.m.,” says Debra Des Vignes of HVAF. 

The City of Indianapolis operator at the call center and HVAF staff will be able to refer those in need to appropriate, local service organizations, including HVAF, Easter Seals, Job Ready Vets and the VA Hospital.
Homelessness among veterans in Indianapolis is on the rise. According to the most recent Point-in-Time Homeless County in Marion County, Indiana, conducted by the Coalition for Homeless Intervention and Prevention and Indiana University Policy Public Institute (PPI) on January 29, 2014, there were 370 veterans homeless in Marion County, an increase of 50 veterans over the same period in 2013.

Another reason for the call center’s creation is the plan set forth by the Obama Administration to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.