Veterans from Douglas, Carroll, Cobb, southwest Atlanta and surrounding areas came together to enjoy a the day of fishing and a cookout at the Dog River Reservoir Recreational Complex off Highway 166 on Wednesday.
Now, this might not be an unusual activity for most people on a beautiful summer day, but for these veterans, it was a chance to come together for camaraderie with those who share the experience of isolation and homelessness.
These veterans are benefiting from services from a program called HUD-VASH, according to Frebrena Stone, a recreational therapist working out of Fort McPherson, with fellow veteran service providers LaTanya Davis, Kayla Kirk, Beverly Raglin, David Smith and Benjamin Zellner, who help veterans as nurses, social workers and peer specialists.
Employed by the Veteran’s Administration, these employees enjoy the special task of providing recreational and other services to formerly homeless vets who are unable to work. But this program is not just fun and games and outings. It helps veterans and their families find and sustain permanent housing, said Stone.
Wednesday’s event was held as an early Fourth of July celebration, Stone said, and picnic tables were all decked out in red, white and blue.
HUD-VASH is a collaborative program between HUD and VA combines HUD housing vouchers with VA supportive services to help veterans who are homeless and their families find and sustain permanent housing.
Through public housing authorities, HUD provides rental assistance vouchers for privately owned housing to veterans who are eligible for VA health care services and are experiencing homelessness.
VA case managers may connect these veterans with support services such as health care, mental health treatment and substance use counseling to help them in their recovery process and with their ability to maintain housing in the community.
Stone said that beyond providing sustainable housing for homeless veterans, they provide healthcare through the program’s outreach initiative.
“Vets are placed in homes and are reintegrated into the community,” she said. “One way we do this is that we provide activities in the communities which gives veterans time to visit and interact with other veterans.”
Veteran Eric Jensen of Carrollton said, “For some of these vets, it’s how they get out. You need these things, for sure.”
Veteran Seven Mills, who resides in Carrollton, is a ringleader to encourage and promote participation of activities planned to bring the veterans’ together.
“Having these events get the attention of other veterans in the community to go to events,” he said. “Like the example today. The people in the community are welcome to participate with us as well.”