Homeless vets get meal and assistance at local event

Homeless vets get meal and assistance at local event
November 12
00:00 2015

In above photo: Veterans check out the service providers at last week’s events. (Photo by Todd Luck)

Homeless veterans enjoyed a meal and a chance to connect with services at the Operation Corps event held Thursday, Nov. 5, at American Legion Post 55.

Op Corps was started by two local Veterans Affairs employees, Doc Digsby and Clarice McNeil, who are both Marine Corps veterans. It’s the third time the duo has held the luncheon and resource fair for homeless veterans. Shelters and organizations that serve the homeless from around the area, not just Forsyth County, brought their veterans to the outreach event, which was sponsored by the Winston-Salem Regional VA office.

“No man or woman who comes home should ever have to wonder where their next meal is coming from,” said Digsby.

Though the City of Winston-Salem declared an end to veterans homelessness recently, meaning veterans identified in the homeless service system get housing within a matter of weeks, it still takes a lot of effort to get homeless vets back on their feet. The VA has been a part of that effort, said VA Veterans Service Center Manager Doug Chapman. The VA has homeless coordinators that work with local shelters to identify veterans and help get them into housing. Homeless veterans also have expedited claims that are processed within 75 days.

“No veteran should be homeless,” said Chapman.

VA staff served veterans a meal donated by Golden Corral on University Parkway. The VA was also offering claims assistance, flu shots, vocational rehabilitation and other services to the vets. Other organizations there included DAV, a disabled veterans non-profit that co-sponsored the event; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Goodwill Industries’ military and veterans employment program Operation: GoodJobs; and the state’s veteran services, NC4Vets. U.S. Rep. Alma Adams’ outreach director, Earline Parmon, was also there.

Veterans Helping Veterans Heal (VHVH), a local transitional housing facility for homeless veterans, brought several of its current residents to the event. VHVH offers case management and a variety of services to veterans staying in its 24-bed facility to make sure they can become self-sufficient again and stay that way.  The average length of stay is eight months and vets can stay there up to two years.

Coast Guard Veteran Michael Hall was among those staying at VHVH who were at Wednesday’s event. He said that he arrived there a couple months after being incarcerated for a probation violation. During his incarceration he lost everything and had no place to go once released. He was grateful to find services that helped him.

“It’s been a blessing to be there and get the help that they’re providing,” he said.

Army Vet. Joe Haggerty, who is also staying at VHVH, said he learned about Goodwill’s services at the event and plans to take them up on offers for clothing, job interviews and truck driver training.

Haggerty has been homeless since  he was laid off from his job as an executive at Parade magazine in 2011, after a long career working on the business side of the newspaper industry. He said the combination of losing his job and his wife through divorce at the same time proved too much for him. Depression and alcohol abuse prevented him from regaining employment causing him to lose everything. He’s stayed with friends, moving every couple months when he’d worn out their patience.

He said at first he was worried about going to a facility for homeless vets, but instead found himself impressed by VHVH’s facility, services and the vets staying there, which he says are helping him tremendously. He said he was also touched by the reception he got at the Op Corps event.

“It’s a humbling experience, to walk in and be honored by the friendliness of the people,” he said, adding that everyone there made him feel accepted.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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