Gregory DeBorde sits unblinkingly, perched on his favorite black recliner chair in his two-bedroom home. It is a home that he now shares with his wife and son, Lucas, and it is lit by the warm orange glow of a single floor lamp. A Christmas tree illuminates the room. DeBorde, a Navy veteran, was once near homeless and worried about how he was going to provide Christmas for his family. In August 2014, he called HVAF and qualified for HVAF’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program which helps veterans and their families avoid becoming chronically homeless by providing them rental assistance, utility payments, and furniture purchases. He was also provided Christmas from a generous HVAF donor that year.
HVAF Case Manager Kayla Jackson helped him move into a rental apartment in Indianapolis after previously renting in Avon which allowed him to gain stability with housing and focus on other needs. All of this in combination with his own self-determination eventually led him to be able to purchase his own home.
Also, Gregory skillfully went through the process of re-applying for disability benefits and to his success began receiving them. In March 2016, he moved into a home in Indianapolis’ Irvington neighborhood. He never imagined himself near-homeless, but is thankful for the hand-up and services received from HVAF.
|Don at the Paul House|
Don R., 54, is a homeless veteran living at HVAF’s Paul House. He served in the Indiana National Guard. While Don served for 6 years he did not have 180 active days on record and therefore did not qualify for VA health benefits. Current and former members of the various Reserve Components and the National Guard must generally serve at least 180 days on active duty to be eligible for medical care and other benefits from the Veterans Administration. Don was on the brink of homelessness. In April 2016, he came to HVAF for help with housing after losing his warehouse job. At HVAF, he receives housing, programs and services. He works with Case Manager Brian Andree who helps him create goals and overcome barriers. He received an additional benefit. With the help of HVAF, Indiana University School of Dentistry has provided him with extensive dental care. “It is an excellent program,” Don said. “I have my self-esteem back.” With a new outlook, he also was ready to get back to work. Don used the computers at the Paul House to find a job. In October, he began employment at Goodwill Industries.
|John, a homeless veteran|
John Wheeler, a former Sgt. Platoon Leader in the Marines who served two terms in Vietnam, is living on the streets for the fifth winter in a row. He’s from Tell City, Indiana and now calls “Tent City” home. HVAF Outreach Worker Rodney Jackson tells us last year there were 17 people living in Tent City, but now there are only a handful of homeless individuals. John finds peace here and is living on the streets by choice.
“I got mad and took it out on society and walked away from my apartment and my job as a CPA,” says John, who suffers from PTSD. “It’s just me myself and I, and I like it this way,” adds John. “I took a tent out there and set it up and have five blankets to stay warm in the winter and I am happy. I really want to be out on my own.”
But, this isn’t enough to keep John off the radar. Rodney checks on him daily providing bottled water, food, hygiene items, boots, gloves, and other winter essentials. “Ever since I took this position in March,” says Rodney, “a day doesn’t go by when I don’t see John.” John has 6 kids and 8 grandkids living in Indianapolis who also visit him in Tent City and provide necessities. John also visits the Horizon House each week to do laundry.
HVAF provides outreach daily to those living out on the streets. Additionally, outreach hours at HVAF are every Tuesday and Thursday from 12:30 to 3:30pm for homeless veterans in need of clothing, hygiene and food.
|Tyler at HVAF|
Tyler Brinkley, 62, is set to move out of the Loyd House, a transitional property operated by HVAF, and into his own apartment after almost 3 years of homelessness. HVAF provided Tyler with housing, 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. He’s a soldier who once cooked three meals a day for 8,000 soldiers deployed in Guam. After being honorably discharged, Tyler returned home to Indianapolis and spent nearly two decades working as a painter. However, 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 is thankful to have a roof over his head at HVAF’s Loyd House and is excited to now have the tools to move into his new home.
|Will at HVAF|
A chance find in his dresser drawer has awakened a whirlwind of emotions for one veteran. Will, 69, a retired private in the Marines, was brought to tears recently when he re-read a long-lost letter he sent to his best friend Jim when he was a strapping young soldier fighting in the Vietnam War.
The discovery took Will completely by surprise, and he both cried and laughed as he read the questions he had asked his friend. The letter, dated 1965, was a flashback to a time when he was alone, separated from his family, but excited about opportunities. However, it is also a painful reminder of the past. A lot of the men in his division were killed. “It’s difficult talking out loud about it to other people,” Will said who was later diagnosed with PTSD. “When I get lonely I like to look back at the letter, but when I first read it after all this time my hands were shaking.”
The letter is a window into how close the bonds are in service. Today, Will’s friend, Jim, is retired and lives in Florida. Jim knew about HVAF’s programs and services and when he learned that Will had become homeless in April 2016, he suggested he reach out for help. He moved into the Manchester Apartments, one of HVAF’s 13 transitional properties, where he joins a weekly grief and loss group. It’s an opportunity to educate, support, and help veterans build coping skills.
“HVAF has been a godsend to me,” says Will. “I came in struggling to walk, relying on a walker as my back was deteriorating as a result of the work I did for decades as a Fork Lifter. HVAF has been able to give me space to heal emotionally, physically, and mentally.”
HVAF was an important step in his journey as he was able to have a safe place to open up and share painful experiences.