“We want to do so much more for veterans than meet their basic needs.”
Jeremy has a very vivid memory of the first veteran family that he worked with. When Jeremy and John first met, John was a veteran who had served for about 10 years and was struggling with severe PTSD. He was put on unpaid leave from his job because of his frequent mental breakdowns, which left his family of six with no income. They lived in their car for a month before coming to the Mission. “That same day, we got them into a hotel and started working on how we could help them,” Jeremy shares. After some therapy, John returned to work and moved his family into a home. “John and Linda had been married for about 10 years and they had never lived in a home together,” Jeremy explains. “This was their first family home.”
Many of the veterans that Jeremy worked with had one thing in common: they lacked knowledge of the resources available to them. He met men, like John, who had fought long and hard for their country but were suffering simply because they didn’t know what they were entitled to. “I would tell them ‘this is what you do and this is how you do it,’ and they’d say ‘Oh, I didn’t even know that resource existed.’” According to Jeremy, this was the most common obstacle that he saw veterans stumbling upon. He soon learned that his two main roles as veteran case manager were to inform and to provide accountability.
Jeremy shares, “[Accountability] would be the next problem that keeps veterans from moving forward, in my opinion.” Many of the homeless veterans he has case managed need to completely reorient their mindset in order to function in their current day-to-day realities. They need to understand the concept of budgeting and learn how to think ahead rather than only focusing on the here and now.
As veteran case manager, Jeremy provided that accountability. “I try to help people change their mind-set. I treat the work program a lot like a job. If they’re late, I write them up,” Jeremy shares. And with this disciplined mind-set comes perseverance. “Even if you don’t know the resources, you’ll find them because you have the mind-set to look for them,” Jeremy explains.
Jeremy has also experienced the pure selflessness of homeless veterans. “I’ll hear them say ‘I’d rather have the next guy have it. There are people out there who are worse off than me.’” These men and women have already given up so much for others, and even when they are facing homelessness, they are mindful of others’ needs. But there are so many resources out there for veterans that they all deserve to benefit from. With the support of case managers like Jeremy, they discover how valuable their service was and receive the tools they need to get back on their feet.