Once-homeless vet fights back from homelessness

Tyler Brinkley, 61, was a soldier who cooked three meals a day for 8,000 soldiers deployed in Guam.

“The first meal of the day is very important,” says Tyler. “Eating in the dining room hall helped our soldiers feel connected.”

Tyler at HVAF
For many soldiers being away from home can be isolating. It was no different for Tyler who served in the U.S. Air Force for 22 months. After being honorably discharged he came home to Indianapolis and spent nearly two decades working as a painter. However, soon the physical labor took a toll on his body. He was unable to hold down a job and support himself. Tyler became depressed and turned to alcohol to cope. As his health worsened he struggled financially to support himself.

Tyler’s living situation also changed in June 2014. The condo he was renting went up for sale leaving him homeless. He turned to the VA for help and was then referred to HVAF for housing.

“Tyler walked in and said “OK, I’m here. How can I get my life in order?’” said HVAF Case Manager Andree Brian.  “He was extremely determined and because of his determination we were able to achieve all of his goals.”

HVAF provided Tyler with housing and reintegration services as well as offered him programs and services that once served as barriers. He received free dental work, eye exams, as well as help filling out his social security benefits in which he later qualified. As a result, his self-esteem soared.

“I now feel a greater sense of peace,” adds Tyler. "The future looks bright again and I envision myself in my own apartment someday. I want to be healthy and happy.”

Today, Tyler is thankful to have a roof over his head at HVAF’s Loyd House. He is preparing three meals each day and that brings him a renewed sense of purpose.

HVAF veterans tell their stories through writing

Fred Young, HVAF Recovery Coordinator
reading his letter to the group
Veterans at HVAF are finding their voice with the help of a local writing organization. A dozen veterans submitted written stories to “Writing Home,” a 2016 Spirit and Place Festival program sponsored by the Indiana Writers Center, Dance Kaleidoscope, the Indiana Historical Society, the Albert and Sarah Ruben Senior Resource Center, and the JCC which the stories of American Veterans will be interpreted in words and dance. Two free performances, showcasing the Veterans’ stories in words and dance, will be held at Partnerships for Lawrence, Theatre at the Fort, on Friday, November 11, and two will be held at the JCC on Sunday, November 13.  

"Every veteran has a story,” says Indiana Writers Center Executive Director Barbara Shoup. “Each person’s experience tell us something we need to know about what military service is like, what we ask of people when we encourage them to serve our country.”

Air Force veteran, Michael W., reflected on his military experiences for the exercise and talked about his initial fear of leaving home. He learned how to embrace fear and unknown and through writing he opened up and shared old memories.

“Barbara really helped me share my feelings openly and express myself and she also encouraged me to keep on writing by giving me tools to use and guidance,” says Michael.

Realtor gives back by serving homeless men and women

Marilyn Parrish at HVAF
On one of the coldest days in March, Marilyn Parrish left the comforts of her home on the north side of Indianapolis and headed downtown to meet the homeless men and women at HVAF. Her parents were both U.S. Air Force veterans who served in WWII and were married for 67 years before they passed. Their passion for helping others inspired her, and an interest in serving others was born.

“I knew I wanted to volunteer and did a Google search of veterans organizations where I could make a difference which is how I found HVAF. To know that so many of our homeless veterans come in with just the shirts on their backs- it is heartbreaking,” says Marilyn.

At HVAF each Tuesday, Marilyn volunteers in the food and clothing pantry sorting and stocking items and each Tuesday you will find her at HVAF. She has provided supplies like sharpies to label donated items.  Her generosity doesn’t stop there. She also purchased a new clothing rack for the clothing pantry.

“You see needs at HVAF and how you can help and you make it happen,” says Marilyn. “I enjoy volunteering.”

Veterans graduate from HVAF's recovery program

Fred Young (left), Gary Trabue, Kyle King
On July 18, U.S. Navy veteran Gary Trabue joined six other men for a graduation celebration of HVAF’s Residential, Substance Abuse, and Treatment (REST) program. In 2014, Gary was homeless, sleeping out of his car, but determined to get his life back in order. He turned to HVAF for help. He was housed in one of HVAF’s thirteen properties and it was there he completed HVAF’s 12-step recovery program. HVAF also referred him to the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, an HVAF partner agency, where he was able to get his finances in order. Years of child support had put a financial burden on his life and prevented him from gaining the sense of security and stability he needed in order to move forward.

Two years later, Gary has a lot to be proud of. He is gainfully employed, and in June he moved into his own apartment.  

“HVAF’s recovery program changed my life,” says Gary. “It was refreshing to have a second chance and I owe it all to REST program. Looking back I realize that I have so much to be thankful for. My transition home was not easy but I persevered,” adds Gary.

Gary has been clean and sober for over a year. His immediate goals are to try to help other veterans who are coming through the recovery program, and continuing his journey of sobriety.

List of veterans recognized in graduation
Gary Trabue
Michael Wise
Laron Judd
Steven Lucas
Reggie Jefferson
Donald Day
Brenden White


HVAF receives contribution at Sallie Mae Announcement

On June 30, Sallie Mae contributed $10,000 to the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation to support local veterans. The company, which is the nation’s saving, planning and paying for college company, also announced 278 new quality jobs to the state. The company is passionate about giving back to the communities where its employees live and work. 

"We are tremendously appreciative for the significant donation Sallie Mae has made which will help our Hoosier veterans return to self-sufficiency,” said Debra Des Vignes, vice president of marketing, HVAF. “Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation is committed to helping ease the burdens veterans face as they transition home and adjust to unique challenges, including job loss, legal issues, and recovery. HVAF provides supportive housing, programs and services, case management, as well as offers homeless veterans essential items, like food, hygiene and clothing.”

“Together we celebrated the company’s commitment to giving back to local organizations, including the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation,” said Mayor Hogsett.