For the City Times
Written by Pastor Lonnie Selje
This is another entry in the United Way’s Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Month
Teamwork in Helping a Veteran
Not everyone understands that helping someone who is homeless is more than putting a roof over their head in the moment. Finding out the story behind their homelessness, working on a plan, and coordinating with other agencies makes for the best success stories. Here is one such story:
One spring our agency (Helping Hands Gospel Mission) heard from an individual who was suddenly homeless. A student at MSTC, his counselor had suggested he call. He and his daughter had nowhere to go. I had worked with the ex-wife in the past, so was somewhat familiar with the family and their circle of friends.
We took care of the immediate need and got them into a motel for a few days until he could go in and meet with another agency, who eventually got them into housing. We helped with some of the furnishings they needed, and continued to remain in contact with them. They got through the summer, and he continued with his education that fall.
Because of multiple tours of duty overseas, he suffered from PTSD. He admitted to not getting regular counseling and that he had some issues from the PTSD. With encouragement, he not only made sure his daughter received the counseling she needed because of her time living with a mother with substance abuse issues, but he started getting regular counseling for himself. The positive aspect of his PTSD was that he had a small disability check to live on while taking advantage of his VA education.
Whenever we spoke, he was most appreciative for what he’d received in help, and gradually, I noticed the stress and strain of his life coming under control. Having someone to talk to and encourage him occasionally was all he needed to continue moving forward. He also had a case manager from the agency helping with his housing.
Fast forward to the following spring. I decided to follow up with this family and see how he was doing, despite not hearing for some time. He was elated. He’d lost my phone number, and life had gotten in the way of making it a priority to find it. He now had his son in his care, was getting ready to graduate, and was anxiously looking for work in this new field his education had opened up. He was still struggling with the stress of it all, knowing that his housing was going to disappear soon as well. (The agency providing the housing worked with him through this time.)
The next day I learned he had gotten a job, with a reasonable pay rate, and that he’d be moving to a new community to begin an entirely new life with his children. He was able to begin the job after school was out for the children, giving him a week to move before starting the new job. Timing was perfect!
I spoke to a family friend this fall, and found out he moved again to a nearby community in that part of the state, into a house in time for the kids to start school in a brand new school district. They are all doing well, including everyone getting the counseling they need.
At least four agencies were involved in this family’s life for about a year. Fortunately, I was able to learn 18 months later, that all was finally going well. Because South Wood County agencies work together as well as they do, this family received the help they needed and their lives turned around. The roles of the agencies changed from crisis management, to case management, to celebration of a new life, all in a cooperative effort.
Clients don’t always appreciate signing releases and having people work together as a team for them. Sometimes it’s pride, sometimes it’s stubbornness, and other times it’s to try to hide or manipulate things. When they are willing though, things go so much smoother, funds come together to provide real needs, and families are given another chance, pulling themselves up making the tough times a mere memory.
Pastor Lonnie Selje is Executive Director for Helping Hands Gospel Mission, a faith-based organization in Wood County that works directly with the homeless and near homeless. Their role is one of connecting people to resources and advocating for them, as they are help to transition to independence and self-sufficiency, filling the gaps other agencies can’t fulfill.