Our case managers with Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) go out of their way – literally – to meet homeless vets where they are and offer them the services they need. “When we identify a homeless veteran and verify their veteran status, we offer to schedule an intake to immediately provide case management and housing assistance,” says Victoria case manager. Often, these vets are found during “outreach,” a crucial part of Victoria’s job. Outreach means that she treks to far-flung locations in the county – wooded areas, along railroad tracks – anywhere that people experiencing homelessness may seek shelter. “Our program aims to reach homeless veterans living on the streets or in the woods, who may be unable to access services,” she says.
Walking the railroad tracks, the team identified several areas that appeared to be occupied by people experiencing homelessness, including a vacant grocery store. Although they didn’t see anyone, they left a brochure in a grocery cart full of belongings sitting in front of the building, to let them know the services available to them. Their final stop: an abandoned building, where they encountered two people sheltering there. “We told them about the services we could offer them. Sadly, for one reason or another, some vets are reluctant to access these services,” she added.
Many veterans believe they don’t qualify for other Veteran services if they are ineligible for VA services. Or, they are too prideful to receive help, which has a negative stigma in the military. Victoria met such a vet when she started with the Veterans Program. “He traveled from state park to state park, sleeping in his vehicle or a tent in the woods,” she says. After experiencing health issues, he agreed to pursue housing. He found an apartment and moved in. During a case management meeting with this vet, she asked him how he was adjusting to his new place. His answer was humbling, “The clanking from the radiators heating up and the sound of his neighbors in the hallway annoyed him until he related those sounds to the sounds of rain splashing off his tent, or small woodland animals by his tent in the night.” But the veteran’s biggest moment of relief was “when it snowed, and he was warmed by radiators rather than using two large candles to stay warm,” says Victoria.
Effective 10/1/22 Opportunity House no longer manages the Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant. Veterans in Schuylkill County needing assistance please call Catholic Charities at (610) 435-1541.