December 2012 Volunteers of America received the opportunity to expand veteran services to Durango, Fort Collins, and the Denver Metro Area. Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) seeks to provide services to Veterans struggling to overcome homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless. My name is Gaelyn Feeney-Coyle, and I began working with VOA in January as a Veteran Advocate with the SSVF program in Denver.
Having the opportunity to provide assistance as a Veterans Advocate has delivered gifts of inspiration, resilience and perseverance through the continuous effort displayed by our Veteran participants. Without having firsthand military experience or the daily challenge of struggling to overcome homelessness, I continuously recognize the impact Veterans deliver to my daily life, and the clarity their stories provide in understanding the essential components towards a path of self-sufficiency. Stories of fear and anxiety expose the daily challenges that present as barriers for success. Many citizens in our country face the threat of losing their home and the crumbling effects of our shifting economy, but we continue to show strength in rising above adversity and utilizing the support from our brothers and sisters.
The faces in our community represent a wide degree of challenges and experiences beyond what many humans are able to overcome. The struggle associated with the pain often overtakes the motivation necessary to persevere, however, each day participants of SSVF continue to strive for a home to call their own. During a conversation I had with a Veteran, I was positively affected by a comment he made on his way to sign his lease, saying “I am 51 years old, and this will be the very first time I’ve lived alone.” I reflected on his comment, and recalled the pure excitement bursting through his words – aware of the adjustment that will ebb and flow through times of transitional hardships, but nonetheless, the ability for him to feel confident, secure and independent is a right that every human should receive.
It is true that problems do not cease once housing is obtained, but for Veterans, and all homeless individuals, it is a basic need to establish a safe environment in order for employment, mental health, and personal well-being to be a function of daily life.
Supportive Services for Veteran Families has been fortunate to integrate into compassionate communities throughout Colorado, and utilize surrounding resources that contribute towards the goal of lasting stability. A single-mother who recently found herself out of work and unable to pay rent, connected with SSVF through the VA Community Resource and Referral Center and began actively receiving case management with SSVF in working towards gaining employment and strengthening her family’s life. Fortunately, this family was able to avoid eviction and remain in their home with receiving employment and temporary financial assistance towards rent costs. While expressing her gratitude in an email, “You have given me not only my hope back but allowed me to keep my pride intact, and for someone like me that means everything.”
Employment services offered with SSVF and additional community agencies work to identify individual skills and experiences that fit appropriately with opportunities to work for local companies. Workshops have been developed to provide bi-weekly support for Veterans seeking employment, and allow employers to connect directly with the specific skill sets of the individuals participating with SSVF.
It is difficult to comprehend the reality of life without a home, or the situational hardships that have led to contribute to such adversity, but a true optimistic element remains in the energy and dedication Veterans deliver to the potential for success. In the five months that Volunteers of America has established the SSVF program over 200 hundred families have been served and continue to transition into permanent housing.