After losing his $120 dollar per week room, he slept in a Georgia public park. Another who fell was picked up and given time to regroup, re-think, and regain his personal strength and motivation. These are some of the stories of homeless veterans saved by a Georgia non-profit group doing remarkable work in the Veteran community.
Atlanta based "Save Homeless Veterans (SHV)" is relatively unknown to America. I was introduced to this veteran's resource last year while investigating our country's struggle to reduce veteran homelessness. Like the veterans it serves, I was immediately drawn to its mission.
"Save Homeless Veterans," a Christian based non-profit, is dedicated to giving back to our military by providing support and homes to veterans in need. However, this is not a just another shelter service.
Tens of thousands of our soldiers live without shelter. Many of these former service members will go without proper healthcare, develop life threatening diseases and watch their day to day lives become more unrecoverable. For many in our veteran community, dreams of a normal life, a rewarding job and a supportive family fall off the horizon as the fight to become part of society again. This is where groups like SHV come in.
Partnering with the Veteran's Administration Compensated Work Therapy Program, SHV provides housing assistance; medical assessments, VA benefits assistance, educational evaluations, resume writing, job placement, financial literacy and the tools veterans need to empower a healthy transition back to civilian life.
From Andrew Hayes, a veteran aided through Saving Homeless Veterans:
"Even now I remember my very first conversation with SHV Director Martin Pool. As a vet who was down on his luck, I had heard people say they want to help a million times before, but he was one of the few I actually believed. I was on the verge of homelessness when we spoke and Martin knew I was in a toxic and isolated environment and that I needed help."
To say that SHV Director Martin Pool is dedicated would be a gross understatement.
Martin Pool shares much in common with the veterans he serves. He understands the debilitating effect violence and hopelessness can have on the human spirit. He also knows what it takes to rise from the ashes, rehab your soul and ascend. I do not know where Pool gets his energy, but I'm sure he could give me a couple of hours of breathless explanation. I like the man. He works hard for those he has chosen to serve. I think he is a fan of providence, but I will let him explain that.
From Devon Jenkins, another grateful veteran:
"It's now Feb. 2014, I've been in Save Homeless Veterans Program since Oct. 2013. I finally got back in school this past Jan 6, 2014 after 2 years of trying to get in Atlanta Tech. Only because SHV provided a safe place for me to sleep at night, I was able to accomplish this and make 2 very good friends who I will always love for showing me real friendship and the love God has for me."
With 1 in 7 homeless adults being veterans, an overwhelmed VA system and the wars winding down, Saving Homeless Veterans has its work cut out for them. And many in the Atlanta business community have stepped up to build homes and provide job opportunities to those returning home from service.
A list of these companies can be found on the Saving Homeless Veterans website found here.
As America slowly wraps its arms around a much overdue long term plan for our warriors, SHV is clearly at the forefront developing innovative private sector solutions for our veteran community. I also hear they are working with a great group of people in the Georgia University System dedicated to improving employment /employment transition strategies for our growing veteran community.
If anyone is interested in a successful model for reducing veteran homelessness and improving veteran success, contact the folks at Saving Homeless Veterans. There is no good reason to re-invent the wheel that is already covering productive ground.
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I would like to thank the staff at SHV and veterans Ricky Keys, Devon Jenkins and Andrew Hayes for sharing their Saving Homeless Veterans stories. I hope you know that your courage and openness about your life will serve others. Good luck gentlemen and thanks. You too Kim Nable. --John