Ending Homelessness for Veterans Across America

The end of March 2017 marked one more community that has announced the end of Veteran homelessness in their community. The City of Nashua, New Hampshire joined 40+ communities and three states (Connecticut, Delaware, and Virginia) that have reached the goal of finding permanent housing for all of their homeless veterans.

The VA launched an initiative to end Veteran homelessness in 2010, and to date 480,000+ homeless veterans across the country have been housed under that initiative.

Local Veterans Administration Medical Centers do more than medical care in their communities. They also serve as hubs for the homelessness initiative in their communities. If you know of a veteran who needs assistance with housing, please put them in contact with the local VA center.

In the last six years, the number of homeless veterans across the country has been cut almost in half.

Here are some contacts for people who want to help and people who need help:

  • Individuals and Businesses wishing to help eradicate homeless veterans in their city can visit: va.gov/homeless.
  • Refer homeless Veterans to their local VA Medical Center or urge them to call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).
  • To learn about employment initiatives for Veterans exiting homelessness, visit: http://www.va.gov/homeless/

 

New VA Analytics Program to Identify Those At-Risk for Suicide

On April 24, 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs introduced a new computer program designed to help identify veterans at-risk for suicide before an emergency arises. It was tested at two VA medical centers and has now been expanded to all VA hospitals across the country.

The analytics program studies veterans’ electronic health records to identify factors known to contribute to suicide, i.e., chronic illnesses, financial and social stressors, repeat hospitalizations, life and relationship changes, and certain health problems. The goal is for the local VA health center to step in and over help to prevent these issues from escalating to suicide.

The approach will include engagement, building trust, and making sure their financial and emotional needs are met, bringing them back from the edge of disaster.

The program has already identified 6,400 of the most high-risk VA patients across the country and brought them into treatment. The program is being called “Recovery Engagement and Coordination for Health – Veterans Enhanced Treatment” (REACH VET).

Many of the people identified by the program have never thought about suicide; however, the stressors in their life are known to culminate in suicidal thoughts. The VA is aiming to be proactive and help before a healthcare emergency arises.

Click here to review the original article. If you know anyone you think the VA should reach out to, please contact the local VA center responsible for that person’s residential address.

 

 

Introducing Florida4Warriors

I met (via telephone) the President and Founder of this group when I worked as a volunteer for The American Red Cross and we were working a hurricane in northern Florida. Tamara called the hurricane call center to volunteer a group of veterans who lived all around the state to help clean up debris, tarp roofs, or whatever people needed. At the time, I had four disabled veteran families whose homes were flooded, and after hearing the mission of this group, I knew those four families were the ones I hoped they could help first!

It was the first time since working with The Red Cross that anyone who was not a Red Cross volunteer had called me to ask how they could help. How refreshing, especially since this group is made up of disabled veterans themselves, but here they were asking how they could help others.

Mission Statement of Florida4Warriors

Following is the mission statement from the Florida4Warriors Facebook page:

To provide support for all veterans – enlisted, guard and reservists – of all branches in the state of Florida. We will:

  • Provide that support through activities and events that use comradery, laughter, and fellowship to build bonds of brotherhood and support.
  • We will work with other groups, local resources, and the community to assist in the understanding and integrating of Veterans into the civilian world, while providing support for Veterans who are struggling with numerous obstacles that life presents, homelessness, and PTSD.
  • We will guide the civilian and Veteran community to help Veterans never leave a brother or sister behind.

If you like outdoor events, this group is for you! They sponsor approximately 10 Silkies Rucks per year to honor the fallen and bring all Florida veterans together in a spirit of fun and friendship. You may come to your first hike alone, but you’ll leave with lifelong bonds of friendship.

In addition to hikes, Florida4Warriors sponsors fishing trips, camping trips, opportunities for spouses and families to participate, and presentations by speakers from many veteran support agencies. If a vet is in emotional distress, the group rallies around to hold him or her up. If they need housing or employment assistance, help is a phone call away.

If the 20+ statewide activities planned by Florida4Warriors are not enough, many cities across the state have representatives who organize local events for their member veterans as well.

Currently, Florida4Warriors could use financial support to support their work. All of their major events are free to member Veterans so no one is left behind because of financial need. They are also looking for land on which to build tiny homes or some other form of short-term housing assistance for homeless vets. If you can help, please visit their GoFundMe page or contact Tamara Sugar, Founder and President of Florida4Warriors.

There is no question that this group is setting the bar for veteran groups across the country. If you would like more information on how you could start a similar group in your state, Tamara is willing to help. Give her a call and let her share her passion with you. I guarantee — you’ll be hooked!

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If you are a Florida veteran and would like more information on Florida4Warriors, please visit their Facebook page. You will find a solid group of warriors like yourself who will leave no one behind.

 

Bladesmith Therapy – Need an Outlet and Someone to Talk to?

Forged in Fire

A couple of weeks ago I caught an episode of Forged in Fire on The History Channel. If you haven’t seen this program, it’s a competition between people who make their own knives – modern day bladesmiths.

What caught my attention this day was one of the contestants, Kyle Gahagan, mentioned he offered Bladesmith Therapy for disabled veterans and veterans suffering the effects of PTSD at his forge. I was intrigued and visited his website for more information.

Naylor Forge (NC)

In 2002, U.S. Army Colonel Ashton Naylor, returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, met a Master Bladesmith in Florida who offered to show him how to make one knife. Ashton says “he was hooked” after that one experience and soon began Naylor Forge.

Colonel Naylor carried his tools with him on assignment back to Afghanistan and began by giving hand-made knives to men in his command as a reward for a job well done. He then began offering to teach men the trade as a diversion from the chaos around them. The above photo is the knife his students create, complete with the unit shield on both the blade and the sheath. He used bladesmithing as a way to build rapport at every post he served at after 2002.

Colonel Naylor served 32 years in the U.S. Army, 26 in the Special Forces Unit. He is now retired and enjoying his new career hand-crafting tomahawks, bowie knives, kitchen cutlery, and other forged items.

Naylor Forge is still open for a fellow green beret or marine in need of a place to talk and a piece of hot metal to forge.

Nate Bocker (VA)

The formal name “bladesmith therapy” was coined in 2013, when Nate Bocker, an active-duty U.S. Army Sergeant, also began sharing the craft he loved with the men he served. It was Sgt. Bocker’s belief that learning the craft of bladesmithing could offer fellow veterans a sense of personal accomplishment plus a craft to use later in life.

Each student was given a bar of steel to hand-forge, shape, grind and sand. When their blade was complete, they were then given a choice of wood or other materials from which to form the handle. Finally, they chose either leather or Kydex from which they made a sheath for their new blade.

Resilience Forge (NC)

By October 2014, 15 students had completed Sgt. Bocker’s Blade Therapy program, each creating at least one knife. Many had gone on to complete additional knives or other forged items.  Kyle Gahagan, another veteran bladesmither, decided this operation had outgrown Sgt. Bocker’s garage and private funding.  That is when the idea for Resilience Forge began to take shape.

July of 2015 saw the formal opening of Resilience Forge NC, a direct result of Kyle Gahagan’s desire to expand the work Nate Bocker had begun in Virginia. The mission and goal of Resilience Forge NC remained the same but expanded support to veterans of North Carolina.

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While Gahagan appears to have a somewhat more formal program at Resilience Forge, many veteran/bladesmiths simply invite veterans in for an informal time of sharing memories and learning a new trade. If pounding out old demons while beating red-hot molten steel with a hammer and talking with someone who knows where you’ve been and what you’ve been going through sounds appealing, perhaps Bladesmith Therapy is what you’ve been looking for.

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Visit the websites mentioned in this blog or click on Resources, Medical, Bladesmith Therapy for a list of veterans offering this program. As with all of our resources, they are listed by state and city so you can try to find someone near you.