Posts Taged veterans

Retired gunnery sergeant provides supportive services for veteran families through Family Endeavors

Retired from the military himself, Ken Becker now works to connect supportive services for veteran families with Family Endeavors.

|March 2, 2017|
|The Globe|

To believe in people’s capacity to grow, to heal, to change, to succeed and to affect others around them is the motto Ken Becker lives by as the outreach and intake specialist of supportive services for veteran families with Family Endeavors.

Becker, retired from the Marine Corps in December 2007 as a motor transport maintenance chief after 20 years of service. The former gunnery sergeant grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina and often reminisces about his childhood, growing up in a military community.

One of Becker’s favorite memories growing up as a military child was receiving tapes with stories from his dad, who would send them to him and his brother so they could hear his voice.

“My father retired from the Army and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. But I chose the Marines for the added challenge,” said Becker. “I enjoyed growing up in the military and the stability of it. Even if my dad was deployed we still had the military community to lean on,” said Becker. “I wanted my children to have that so that was also one of the reasons why I joined.”

Currently, Becker is responsible for conducting the initial eligibility screening of veterans who need assistance.

“I conduct outreach and networking activities in the community; such as seeking out and working with homeless veterans in shelters and in tent cities,” said Becker. “If they are eligible and wish to receive our help, I enroll them in the program. They are then assigned to a case manager who works with them while they are in the program. During their time in the program, veterans are assisted finding housing, employment, filing for benefits, registering for school, or whatever their goals might be.”

For Becker one of the most rewarding aspects of his job is running into veterans who they have helped get back on their feet. “Seeing the transformation is very fulfilling,” said Becker.

Becker credits the Marine Corps for his discipline and initiative, and chose Jacksonville to retire because this is where both of his children were born.

“We decided to stay because this is our home. I spent most of my active-duty time stationed at Camp Lejeune. This town is where my two children were born and raised,” said Becker. “My wife stayed here through my deployments and works here.”

His advice for young service members is to have a solid plan to fall back on and to set tangible goals.

“The most important step is making a plan. If you want something, find out the steps of how to get there and become something you can be proud of,” said Becker.

Family Endeavors is a national non-profit agency that provides services and practical solutions for families who have been torn by poverty and need crisis intervention.

The Veteran Services program offers homelessness prevention and stabilization services to veterans and their families. Services are provided to veteran families with very low income, veterans facing eviction and veterans who are currently homeless.


Our Jacksonville, North Carolina can be reached at (910) 459-4320.
Learn more about the services for Veteran families and counties served in North Carolina.

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Point-In-Time Homeless Count in San Antonio | Photo Essay

Tommy Riester, was a homeless veteran for more than a year before finding Family Endeavors employee Teresa Estrada. Today he’s a volunteer in the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count to help those that still are.

|Jan. 27, 2017|

|Rivard Report| |Photos by Scott Ball|

The Point in Time (PIT) Count seeks to determine the number of homeless people on the nation’s streets and in shelters on a single night. In San Antonio, more than 400 volunteers fanned out across the city to survey the homeless population.

The annual count is conducted throughout the nation in order for states to qualify for federal funds to assist the homeless population. It also is a way for nonprofits, cities, and law enforcement to identify more effective ways to address homelessness.

To view PIT Counts in San Antonio from previous years, click here.

On Thursday night, I was attached to an outreach group that included a San Antonio police officer, a volunteer who had once been homeless, workers from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, and volunteers from Family Endeavors Inc., a national nonprofit that provides services to children, families, veterans, and anyone struggling with mental illness and other significant disabilities.

ScottBall_PIT_Point_in_Time_Homelessness_Homeless_Population_SanAntonio_VA_Family_Endeavors_1-26-2017-1 ScottBall_PIT_Point_in_Time_Homelessness_Homeless_Population_SanAntonio_VA_Family_Endeavors_1-26-2017-4 ScottBall_PIT_Point_in_Time_Homelessness_Homeless_Population_SanAntonio_VA_Family_Endeavors_1-26-2017-8-e1485665395620

This year, the federally mandated PIT Count was conducted using a smartphone app, ‘Counting Us’, developed by SimtechSolutions, replacing the paper system used previously. The app was used to survey the homeless individuals we encountered. Volunteers gathered information on each person’s age, gender, ethnicity, years homeless, history of mental illness, and potential HIV diagnoses, among other things.

One member of our volunteer group, Tommy Riester, was homeless for more than a year after his wife dropped him off in front of the VA Hospital and left him. There, Riester tried to commit suicide five times. Eventually, the Navy veteran found a friend in Family Endeavor volunteer Teresa Estrada, who helped him transition out of homelessness. Riester, who suffers from severe PTSD, has been off the streets for a year.

When he was still homeless, he frequently visited Haven for Hope, a local comprehensive homeless shelter and transformation program. But Riester said his experience there was not positive, illustrating the complexity of issues facing homeless people. For some, shelters feel confining and unsafe, while for others, they provide a vital respite from the streets.

At Haven for Hope, an outdoor area called Prospects Courtyard functions as a sleeping space at night. Riester felt crowded in, “this far apart from each other sleeping,” he said, holding his hands approximately eight inches apart, “and everything’s getting stolen.”

Haven for Hope Outreach Manager Ron Brown said the facility provides lockers for people who sleep in the courtyard, and their use is encouraged. Two police officers are on duty until 11 p.m.

“[Theft] has gotten a lot better, but you’ve got to watch your stuff,” Brown said.

Brown said Haven for Hope has rules those who seek shelter at the facility must follow, but some find that difficult.

“It was a choice between being in there and having all these little restrictions,” Riester said. “It just doesn’t work out, and that’s why you end up with people out here.

“… People looked at me as a homeless person. They never looked at me as just an individual or that I was in the military, none of that,” Riester said of his past experiences on the streets. “I was a homeless veteran, but I was looked at as an alcoholic, a druggie, or in trouble with the law.”

View all photos from the 2017 Point-In-Time Count in San Antonio, TX. Photos by Scott Ball.

Learn more about Supportive Services for Veterans Families in San Antonio online or call 210-431-6466.

ScottBall 2017 Point In Time Homeless Count
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Annual Point-In-Time Homeless Count Takes Place in North Carolina

Family Endeavors staff in North Carolina participate in the Point-In-Time homeless count, part of a national effort for communities across the nation to obtain a 24-hour snapshot of homelessness.

|Jan. 25, 2017|

|Fayetteville Observer|

The community services manager for Cumberland County Community Development Department anticipates an increase in the area’s homeless population from this year’s Point-In-Time count.

“Due to Hurricane Matthew, there were many people who lost their homes. You have that number in addition to the existing homeless population,” the Community Development’s Dee Taylor said Wednesday. “Many of these are probably staying in hotels still. This point-in-time does not give us a complete picture of the homeless in Cumberland County. It just gives us a snapshot.”

A year ago, 515 people were counted as homeless in Fayetteville and Cumberland County.

The annual Point-In-Time homeless count got underway at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning. Regarded as “a 24-hour snapshot of homelessness” in the community, it’s being conducted through 6a.m. today.

Sixty-seven-year-old George Atkins, who delivered the morning prayer before the homeless were served breakfast at Operation Insasmuch, says this rudimentary count of the street people population in the area provides a service.

” ‘Cause I was homeless myself,” he said from his table. “You know someone has their ears open, anyway.”

The Point-In-Time count, typically held within the last 10 days of January, is part of a national effort for communities across the nation, Taylor said.

Just before noon, Michelle Blanding, the program director for Family Endeavors, reported that the count “was going pretty well.” That nonprofit organization provides assistance to low-income veterans and their families in the Fayetteville area.

In Blanding’s case, the homeless individuals who already had been approached for information for the Point-In-Time count surveys had been friendly, she said. “They did it last year. They’re very open,” she added. “They do understand the need, and they do ask you why?”

The count is federally mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, especially for those agencies receiving assistance from the McKinney-Vento homeless program.

The overall number is determined through both a street count, with volunteers canvassing the streets, under bridges and at soup kitchens, as well as a service count, conducted by agencies that provide emergency shelter, transitional housing or permanent housing to those experiencing homelessness.

For the survey, individuals are being asked, “Where did you sleep on the night of Wednesday, Jan. 25th?”

Volunteers and service providers also use the questionnaires to obtain information on such things as their background, whether they have specific conditions, whether they’re military, and whether they are survivors of domestic violence.

Sue Byrd, the executive director of Operation Insasmuch, said this information on who is being served helps her organization apply for grant money. In some cases, she said, these records can be of help to law enforcement.

Homeless individuals do not have to give their full names: An identifier on the forms asks only for the first two letters of their first and last names.

“Don’t be afraid to talk to them. They’re not here to put you in jail,” executive director Gladys Thompson told more than 35 people waiting in line to eat a hot lunch at the City Rescue Mission.

A 50-year-old homeless woman, on hand at Operation Inasmuch, was among those on board with providing personal information for the surveys. She declined to give her name.

“Even the homeless community keeps up with each other,” she said. “We’re a community. Just as you have the upper class, lower class, middle class, you have the homeless.”

Staff writer Michael Futch can be reached at 486-3529 orfutchm@fayobserver.com

For more about Supportive Services for Veterans Families in Fayetteville, call 910-672-6166 or visit our Veterans Services online.

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Free Cohen clinics aim to fill VA’s shortfalls in mental health

The fact the Cohen clinics don’t have strict eligibility rules will enable them to reach an entire population of veterans who are currently being underserved.

|Dec. 1, 2016|

|USA Today|

Elenilson Franco, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, first sought mental health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs nearly four years ago.

He is still waiting. The VA lost his original paperwork and hasn’t yet approved a new application, he said.

“It’s frustrating,” lamented Franco, 46, who served in Iraq as a U.S. Marine. “I am a veteran. The VA is supposed to be there for me.”

Over the past three years, the sprawling VA system has come under fire from Congress and the media because veterans were waiting too long to see a doctor. Mental health appointments have been particularly difficult, and that can be dangerous for veterans. Studies show up to 20% of soldiers returning from battle in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Now, a new chain of free mental health clinics for vets has opened in five cities across the United States to fill the gap.

The much-needed new treatment is underwritten by an unlikely benefactor: Steven A. Cohen, the former head of a hedge fund that pleaded guilty to insider trading charges in 2013. His $13 billion fortune puts him among the 100 wealthiest individuals in the world, according to Forbes magazine.

Cohen said the catalyst for the clinics was his son, Robert, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. He said his son didn’t need counseling when he returned, but many of his friends did.

“I got lucky,” Cohen said. “My son came back in great shape, but not everyone is that fortunate.”

Cohen got involved with veterans’ mental health issues in 2011 through the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization. Then he began supporting the NYU Military Family Clinic. Now, he is investing $275 million nationally in the clinics and plans to open roughly 20 more over the next five years. The goal of the Cohen clinics is to provide confidential mental health services, free of charge, for veterans like Franco.

“Veterans are suffering,” Cohen said in a written response to questions. “They went overseas and paid an extraordinary debt that we need to repay. The goal of my network is to help pay back that debt and get veterans back into society in a functioning way.”

The clinics, part of the nonprofit Cohen Veterans Network, are intended primarily for those who have served in the military during the post-September 11 era, though they are open to all veterans. Cohen said he is putting them in areas of high need.

“There’s a large population of veterans who need mental health services,” said Terri Tanielian, a senior behavioral scientist at Santa Monica-based RAND Corporation. “This provides them with another option. … The clinics certainly add to our nation’s capacity.”

Franco, who lives in Huntington Park, Calif., said that he was able initially to find help through a local nonprofit, but he plans to visit the Cohen clinic in L.A. “very soon.”

In addition to Los Angeles, Cohen’s network also operates clinics in New York City, San Antonio, Philadelphia and Addison, Texas – a suburb of Dallas. They care for veterans regardless of how long they served or how they were discharged. The clinics also serve veterans’ family members. The outpatient centers treat a wide range of mental health disorders and help veterans make the transition back to civilian life. Cohen is also funding a nonprofit research organization, Cohens Veterans Bioscience, that will seek to develop tests and medications for PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

Cohen is the CEO of Point72 Asset Management in Stamford, Connecticut, and formerly headed SAC Capital Advisors, which pleaded guilty in 2013 to insider trading charges. Cohen himself is temporarily barred from supervising funds that manage outside money – part of an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The new network of clinics combats “the persistent delays and the persistent lack of access that our service members and our families have experienced,” said Marilyn L. Flynn, the dean of the University of Southern California School of Social Work. The Cohen clinic in Los Angeles operates in partnership with the School of Social Work and USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

“It’s not just lack of access,” Flynn said during the grand opening of the Los Angeles clinic last month. “In some cases, it’s exclusion.”

The VA estimated in 2014 that there were 2.6 million post-9/11 veterans.  They have high rates of depression, PTSD and other mental health problems.

One study by the VA found that about 30% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics had PTSD. Yet only about half of veterans with PTSD are receiving care for their condition, RAND’s Tanielian said. Barriers to care include a shortage of mental health providers and perceptions that seeking care is a sign of weakness or could hurt their career.

Some younger veterans prefer not to use VA facilities for health care, either because of location, concerns about confidentiality or a desire not to take services away from older veterans, Tanielian said.

And many veterans seek care outside the VA because they don’t qualify for the government-funded services, said Milo Peinemann, chief strategy officer at New Directions for Veterans, a Los Angeles nonprofit.

The fact the Cohen clinics don’t have strict eligibility rules will enable them to reach an entire population of veterans who are currently being underserved, Peinemann said.

Over the past decade, community organizations have expanded physical and mental health care access for veterans. The Warrior Care Network, for example, is trying to fill gaps in government care through a partnership with four academic medical centers across the U.S.

Angel Ewers, 41, her husband, and their teenage children are being treated at the Cohen clinic in San Antonio. Ewers said her husband, who served in the Army, Air Force and the National Guard, tried to commit suicide nearly three years ago. Since then, he has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals and seen numerous providers.

He didn’t have a good experience at the VA, Ewers said. “He felt like it was more, ‘Get him in, get him out,’” she said. “He was a number.”

Not having to pay for care at Cohen clinics is a “financial relief”, she said.

When possible, the clinics will bill insurance, said Anthony Hassan, president and CEO of the Cohen Veterans Network. But he noted that not all veterans and family members want their insurance companies to know they are seeking mental health treatment.

Providers across the network will strive to provide care that is based on proven best practices, said Ian Chuang, chief medical officer for Netsmart, a technology company that is tracking outcomes and supporting research at the Cohen clinics.

“The Cohen veteran clinics are trying to push the boundaries and say, ‘We need to do better,’” Chuang said. “We want to be part of figuring out what better means.”

The clinics are staffed by social workers, psychologists and students, including veterans. At the Los Angeles clinic, providers offer individual counseling, substance abuse treatment and psychiatric services. Staff members also connect families with other services, including transportation, housing and child care.

The clinic plans to open satellite centers around Los Angeles County and to collaborate with existing providers.

Partnering with a university and having the flexibility of private funds makes the L.A. clinic uniquely qualified to provide the best scientific treatment as it evolves, said Marvin Southard, the clinic’s CEO and former mental health director for L.A. County. “And it’s constantly evolving,” he said.

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Cohen clinics serve veteran mental health
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A Snapshot Of Veteran Services In Military City USA

Texas Public Radio interviews program serving San Antonio Veterans.

|TPR: The Source|

|November, 25 2016|

Whether it’s for physical or mental health care, San Antonio veterans and their families have options when looking for healing and support in “Military City USA.”

The Source looks at a few of the many resources available in the area and how members of the military community are helping each other.

Listen to the program.

Reach out to the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at www.familyendeavors.org/mfc

To learn more about Veterans Team Recovery Integrative Immersion Process, visit www.vettriip.org

Follow the Open the Door Pilot Program’s Facebook page for events and updates.

Guests:

  • Bob Deschner, VET TRIIP Board President
  • Iris Gonzalez, Contributing Writer at the Rivard Report
  • Cody Vance, San Antonio Project Manager of the “Open the Door” public art program
  • Dr. Melinda Fierros, Medical Director at Family Endeavors’ Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic
Texas Public Radio Military Family Clinic
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Ending Veteran Homelessness in San Antonio

How San Antonio intends to keep every veteran off the streets

|KATHLEEN PETTY|

|San Antonio Magazine November 2016|

It took nearly 25 years for Freddie Yokum to hit rock bottom. After serving in the U.S. Army in the late 1970s, Yokum became addicted to crack cocaine while working for a South Texas oil company. An overdose in his Louisiana hometown prompted Yokum’s sister to drive him to San Antonio—Military City, USA—where she knew her troubled brother was more likely to get the help he needed.

After completing rehab, Yokum moved into the American GI Forum National Veterans Outreach Program’s residential center, which helped connect him with a job. Last April, he became one of the now more than 1,400 veterans placed into permanent housing through a city-led initiative launched in January 2015. In May, Mayor Ivy Taylor declared that veteran homelessness had been effectively ended in San Antonio.

The efforts, however, didn’t end there. “When the mayor said homelessness among veterans is ended, people think no one is on the street,” says Carlos Martinez, president and CEO of the American GI Forum. “We have about 50 new veterans every month who are identified as homeless. We still have people who need assistance.”

Effectively ending veteran homelessness, says Martinez, really means that there’s a system in place for identifying veterans in need and providing housing and resources to those who will accept help. Some won’t. Additionally, caseworkers identify newly homeless veterans each month.

What the initiative did, says Travis Pearson, president and CEO at Family Endeavors, one of the eight organizations involved, was force San Antonio’s various agencies to constantly collaborate to solve the problem. Thanks to a $2.1 million donation from USAA for use in 2016, it also meant there were enough resources to address what had become a large-scale issue.

Bill Hubbard, executive director of the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless (SARAH), says the reasons for homelessness vary as much as the solutions. Some struggle with mental illness or addiction and require treatment before working toward self-sufficiency. Others need job training or help connecting to federal veteran resources to which they’re already entitled. “Every single veteran requires a custom solution,” Hubbard says, adding that SARAH secures federal funds  each year to address homelessness, some of which are allocated toward keeping veteran homelessness down.

Pearson and Navarra Williams, president and CEO at SAMMinistries, say ideally, they identify struggling veterans before they become homeless. SAMMinistries, which works to prevent homelessness, provides utility and rent assistance plus other support in an effort to keep people in their homes. When that isn’t an option, it and other agencies work to find permanent housing while continuing to work with some veterans for up to two years so that they can eventually become self-sufficient.

Still, says Martinez, self-sufficiency isn’t always a possibility, which is another reason the challenge is ongoing. Among the 133 veterans the American GI Forum placed into housing in a 45-day period earlier this year were some who, because of disabilities, will never be able to work. Others will require more long-term assistance. Martinez wants to make sure there are enough long-term housing and support programs in place. “Now that we made this initial push it’s really essential that we maintain our gains,” Hubbard says. “We need to stay on top of it so we don’t again have the opportunity to place 1,400 people in one year.”

For Yokum, having an apartment where the rent was paid for the first six months has made all the difference. He’s worked various jobs since moving in but recently started a full-time custodial position at the Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he says. “I’ve just had to take it one day at a time.”


ILLUSTRATION BY JARED BOGGESS
This article appears in the November 2016 issue of San Antonio Magazine.

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Veteran in North Carolina Recalls Years Spent Homeless

Thomas Lopez reflects on the 13 years he spent homeless before being connected to Family Endeavors.

|AMANDA THAMES|

|August 17, 2016|

Thomas Lopez sacrificed a college education and real-world skills in order to serve his country. But when it was time for his country to offer service in return, Lopez said he came up empty-handed.

Lopez, his wife, four children and his father had moved to Hawaii where he was stationed. While there, his father was hospitalized for multiple sclerosis and Lopez was taking time off to be with him more often than his platoon sergeant liked, he said.

Lopez, now 57, said his sergeant told him to fix the problem or he’d be kicked out. After all, he’d signed his contract and wasn’t spending enough time fulfilling it.

Lopez took an honorable hardship in April 1990 and left the Army as a sergeant, coming back to the continental United States.

It was the start of the end for him, he said.

The Army was all he knew and he felt thrown into society with no education and few skills. He and his wife had two more kids before eventually getting a divorce.

“It was the first major loss in my life,” he said.

He had a lack of income and trouble holding down a job. Depression set in.

One night he found himself sleeping on someone else’s couch and the next he was sleeping under a bridge.

Dangers of living on the streets

Lopez said he spent the next 13 years on the streets, at times digging in garbage cans for food and trying to keep himself safe.

It was a dangerous world, he said.

“You become a target,” he said. “We create an aura of fear . . . People are just mean.”

Unlike most, the homeless population doesn’t file police reports for crimes committed, Lopez said. The only time he had dealings with police officers was when they were forcing him to move his tent.

During hurricanes and major storms, he said the homeless were forgotten.

“I don’t remember anybody coming to look for us,” Lopez said.

Three of his friends died during the 13 years he was homeless. One overdosed, one’s liver was too alcohol-saturated and the third was beaten to death.

But the homeless in Onslow County are not all drunks and drug addicts who want to be on the streets.

While some may choose that life, most of the men and women out there just want help, Lopez said.

“The homeless need to be identified,” he said. “Find the ones who don’t want to be there. If they want help, they need help.”

Finding food

Every morning two questions crossed Lopez’s mind: “How am I going to eat today?” and. “Am I going to eat today?”

It was basic survival he said, pausing. He looked away, red-rimmed eyes brimming with unshed tears.

There was always something in the trash, he said. People throw away a lot of food.

When that failed he sometimes asked people to buy him food. He said he never asked for money, knowing most would assume he wanted drugs or alcohol. He asked for something every person needs for survival.

Some helped him, he said. Others completely ignored him, walking past without a glance.

Some told him to get away from them.

He went to DSS and asked for food stamps, but he said since he didn’t have a job or an address he was denied.

Many days he just chose to go without food, he said. There was always the chance someone would say no or someone would catch him at a trashcan. It was preferable, he said, to do without.

“I wanted to die,” he said. “I couldn’t even get something to eat.”

One day a young Marine found Lopez crying. The Marine touched his shoulder and asked if he was OK.

Lopez said he was hungry.

“I’m not going to starve to death,” Lopez told the Marine. “I’m not going to wait for that.”

He and the Marine sat down to a meal.

Eating with a fellow military member, being treated as a human being again, it got Lopez talking and the Marine told him there was help through the VA. He found a suicide hotline for Lopez and asked him to rethink his life.

Lopez was put in touch with OHVets and Penni Ford, a case manager with Family Endeavors, a woman who is still working to Lopez today.

Helping those who want it

Living in the woods behind a friend’s home where he helped with the lawn and other chores in exchange for a safe place to pitch his tent, Lopez received a free cell phone — a program through SafeLinnk Wireless that gives struggling, low-income Americans free cell phones, voice minutes and text messages — and kept in contact with Ford, who helped him find a home through Section 8 around March.

“I got the call saying, ‘Go sign your lease, you’re in,’” he said. “My homelessness ended.”

He was able to receive 10 percent disability through the VA to get medical care. The process took a few months, but Lopez said he was used to the “hurry up and wait” method.

In the meantime, Ford helped him with clothes, food and basic necessities like a toothbrush, though he said it was a little late on the dental end, pointing to a group of missing teeth on the left side of his mouth.

The best part was being treated like a person again.

“They didn’t degrade me, humiliate me or talk to me in a way that was less than human. I was treated with respect,” Lopez said.

Ford also kept him up-to-date on progress so he knew what was happening. He was still living outside at the time, but said it had been 13 years — a couple more months would be okay.

Homelessness is like “life is attacking you,” he said, whether that’s a person or the elements. There are no permanent shelters from the rain, hail or lightening, no air conditioning in 100 degree weather, no heater when it’s below freezing.

Lopez asked that people think about this when they see a homeless person.

Be kind, he said.

Just treat others as the humans they are.

“Don’t cross the street when you see me, like I have the plague,” he said.

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a three-part series looking at homelessness in Onslow County. Jacksonville Daily News
This story also appeared in Stars and Stripes.

Veteran Reflects on Homelessness
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South Texas Veteran Battling Cold Temperatures

VeteranBattlingCold

http://www.krgv.com/news/local-news/Veteran-Battling-Cold-Temperatures/36728740

By John Bartell, KRGV Reporter

WESLACO – A garden shed and his dog is all one Weslaco Navy veteran has to protect him from the cold weather. 

From a battle ship in Beirut to barracks in Miami, Ramiro Lopez is used to small spaces. The former Navy man spent 3 years overseas patrolling hostile coastlines.

Lopez and his crewmates were recognized for outstanding performance. Now, the naval hero takes refuge in a garden shed.

“This is where I live,” he said.

The death of Lopez’s wife in 2007 sent him into a deep depression. Last week, he and his dog were kicked out his apartment. A friend allowed Lopez to move into the shed.

Lopez said work is hard to find when he’s on constant medication.

“I am unstable,” he said.

Lopez said he needs help getting an apartment. A quick call gave CHANNEL 5 NEWS some answers.

“Housing stability is our priority,” said Melissa Escamilla from Family Endeavors.

Family Endeavors is a non-profit that helps veterans get housing. In August, CHANNEL 5 NEWS reported on how Escamilla helped veteran Richard Porter get rent money. We reached out to her to see what she could do for Lopez.

“If they are facing some hard times or assistance, we do provide temporary financial assistance,” Escamilla said.

Family Endeavors specifically helps veterans who are on the streets, facing eviction or who are without utilities. They provide emergency funds and services for up to 90 days.

“Many places are running out of money, but we do have funding at this time,” Escamilla said.

Ramiro Lopez has bounced around different organization to look for help. CHANNEL 5 NEWS was able to link him up with the Family Endeavors. If he meets the criteria, he may be eligible for housing assistance.

Lopez will meet with the agency on Tuesday. They will do a quick background check on the veteran’s status. If he passes, he could be eligible for assistance in just a few days. The agency will even help Lopez find employment.

Veterans who need help can call Family Endeavors at 956-278-0751. If necessary, the agency will go to veterans to help them.

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