housing for homeless
The West Haven site for the Veterans Support Foundation/Vietnam Veterans
Assistance Fund Homeless Veterans housing Program continues to work hand
in hand with the partnership of the VA Connecticut Health Care System
in providing both permanent and temporary housing for veterans who are
actively engaged in outpatient treatment. The goal is to assist the veteran
to find stable and permanent housing in the community. The housing program
offers 36 beds, 12 for permanent residence and 18 beds for veterans who
are attempting to make positive changes in their lives. During the screening
process staff makes the assessment if the veteran meets our criteria
and it is explained at that time that VSF/VVAF has expectations that
the individual will thrive while in our program. The residents work on
identifying their goals and continue to work on their recovery, vocational
goals that will improve their livelihood, and identify functional abilities
that will lead to independent living in the community.
During the time the veteran moves into the apartment there are clear expectations that he will continue to attend his medical and psychiatric appointments at the VA; take his medications as prescribed; attend his support groups that may be held at the Errera Community Center for veterans in outpatient treatment; he must remain in behavioral control where there is zero tolerance for violence, intimidation, threatening and/or verbal abuse towards staff and other residents who live in the house. Everyone is expected to assist with the upkeep of the apartment, provide their own personal items and food.
While the resident is admitted to the program, there are weekly meetings to address issues that may arise within the house. It is also a place where the residents are able to discuss issues that may be affecting their lives. Many of the residents share about the difficulties they face while trying to find employment in the community, interpersonal conflicts that sometimes arise and how to handle the situation without losing everything they have worked hard for; feeling accepted back into their families and/or circle of friends, having to give up old friends in order to remain clean and sober. One of the hardest barrier that some of the residents have is relapsing back to alcohol and/or substances. Many of the residents do address how they have to struggle with the idea of retuning back to using and the consequences this type of lifestyle brings but learning coping skills and trying other interventions is sometimes a long process that is often difficult. Although the program does offer relapse prevention there are times where the resident may have to attend support groups; AA/NA meetings held in the community to assist with mentors and/or sponsors that understand the struggles that come with living a life of recovery.
Meetings are held weekly with the interdisciplinary treatment team of each veteran to address the progress made toward their individualized goals; to address issues and barriers that often arise in the houses and to address housing alternatives that are available in the community. There are some residents whose level of functioning prevent them from living in the community and they are referred to assisted living facilities such as a rest home and/or nursing home facilities that provide supervision and additional services.
This year, we have had some successful stories around several of our residents who have permanent housing through the local Section 8 Voucher Program. Through networking the VSF/VVAF and VA Homeless programs offer case management services for those veterans to provide assistance while the individual transitions from homelessness to being connected in treatment to living in the community. It may seem that once the veteran has his own apartment that the work is completed but that is when the work actually begins. While in programs such as our housing programs the resident is provide assistance around learning how to negotiate his needs via paying his residential fees in a timely manner; learning how to grocery shop, developing a budget and saving money; along with the needed skills to maintain an apartment. In the programs weekly rounds are done to observe how the veteran is keeping his assigned apartment and bedroom clean. Using this type of intervention keeps the resident mindful that this temporary living area and these skills will be needed to live in the community.
VSF/VVAF has been able through networking with other social agencies in the community to aid with security deposits, food assistance and private donation from the community. VAF/VVAF has joined the task force with the local Police Station to address issues that may arise in the houses and community. This year, some of our past graduates return to the weekly house meeting held on union Avenue to provide support to those residents who are in the process of looking for housing in the community and to encourage them to follow through with treatment and sobriety.
We have also connected with a local church in the Branford and Guilford area
to paint the bedrooms at Union Avenue. We have volunteers who contact us to see
if they provide services within the program (picking up the leavers, donations).
VSF/VVAF has several residents who are attending college from the dreams of becoming
a pilot to becoming a counselor and assisting others with the skills needed to
live clean and sober to owning their own drafting business. As one of the veteran
stated in a house meeting “now I can use my car for what it was meant for to
drive and not be my apartment. It feels good putting a key in the door and knowing
that when I walk into the apartment it is mine.”
The Elm Street House, a permanent living facility, continues to flourish, providing support and stability for the veterans. Dan P remains the skilled and caring house manager. He keeps little problems from becoming big ones, and he provides direction, encouragement, skill development, and an atmosphere of safety and stability in the house for the 6 veteran residents. There have been some positive changes at the Elm Street House during this past year.
A "new" resident, Dave W. moved in January 2007. He was a former Elm Street House resident who moved out ~2002 and lived in an apartment on his own for a few years. He required an extended hospitalization last year and on discharge Jan. 07' he agreed to move back to Elm Street. He does two hours/day volunteer work in the hospital, which is as much as he can tolerate at this time.
Mike K. remains stable in the house. Mike is significantly disabled psychiatrically. When his elderly father moved back to California last year, he was greatly relieved to know that Mike was in a secure supportive environment, close to the hospital. His father has felt so positively about this placement for Mike, last year and again this year he donated $200 to the house for a gourmet holiday meal, surf and turf, prepared by Dan. The guys look forward to it.
Larry M. remains stable, working part time in a chair-caning shop. He has just recently agreed to job development assistance with a VA supportive employment counselor. She will work with him to develop appropriate competitive employment in the community.
Doug H. is the resident with greatest longevity in Elm Street House, 11 years. This month he landed a competitive job in the community, making deliveries for a local auto parts store. He has been unemployed for 4 yrs, ever since he lost his job as an auto emissions technician when Connecticut terminated their auto emissions program. He attempted myriad jobs during this 4 year period, but all were too stressful and demanding (driving Fed Ex truck, delivering pizza, taxi driving). I am convinced, what sustained Doug's level of functioning throughout this period of unemployment was the stability of his supervised living situation. He was expected to perform chores in the house, remain part of the community of Elm Street House, as well as perform volunteer work when he could not find paid employment. He was able to avoid hospitalization during this interval of unemployment, and he continued to search for employment with the encouragement and unflagging assistance of a VA supportive employment counselor. Doug is elated to be working again.
Jack P. found full time employment this year as a painter in the VA. In the past Jack has become profoundly depressed and suicidal when living alone. While on one hand it might seem that he could successfully move out and live independently, he is not pressing for this, and no one is suggesting that he move out.
Frank P. has been at Elm Street House 3+ years. Until recently he was working in the Incentive Work Therapy program doing grounds work at the VA. His health has fluctuated. He is now seriously medically compromised with lung CA. We wish him well.