PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - Unfortunately, during this time of year, many people find themselves in need. Fortunately, there are many organizations to provide assistance.

For local veterans who need assistance, perhaps because of the downturn in the economy or one of many other reasons, one additional organization to turn to for a helping hand that goes beyond the holiday season is the Veterans Transition Center of Monterey Country.

The transition center, located in Marina, is one of only two VTC programs in the country in a position to help not only individual veterans who need assistance, but to also aid their families.

In general, the mission of the Veterans Transition Center is to provide services for Monterey County's homeless veterans and their families. According to the program's Web site, by providing veterans with transitional housing, emergency services and case-management programs, veterans will once again become employable and productive members of the community.

The VTC staff does not simply offer short-term solutions to homelessness, the site says, they strive to better the lives of homeless veterans and aim to give them the tools they need to help themselves.

Some of the veterans are participating in the program as a way to get clean and sober and transition back into the mainstream.

However, Ronald Holland, executive director of the center, said that covers only about 50 percent of the participants. The program is also for people about to become homeless for reasons such as foreclosures or lost jobs.

Holland said that some clients who have transitioned through the program got out of the military and had trouble finding jobs because their military positions didn't easily translate into marketable skills.

There are even some who came to the center directly off active duty from the Presidio of Monterey because during their transitions they could not obtain other housing arrangements due to the very tight job market, said Holland, explaining that many people in the Monterey area are "just two paychecks away from being homeless."

The center controls 20 duplexes located at the former Fort Ord. Within the duplexes, they can house 52 veterans, six spouses and 24 children, Holland said.

While there are six families in housing, there are currently 15 families and seven individual male veterans on the waiting list. And, although the center does not have any emergency housing, Holland said he and his staff have networks to help veterans and their families in immediate need.

Many of the veterans participate in the Coming Home Program, which provides transitional housing and counseling services to veterans, Holland said. During the two-year transitional program, veterans deal with mental-health issues, physical disabilities, and transitioning from homelessness to self-sufficiency, which can even include relearning everyday issue like general hygiene care.

"A lot has to do with PTSD," Holland said, adding that for Vietnam veterans, some additional factors had to do with not being accepted into the general workforce upon their return to the mainstream. "We won't let that happen again."

Current veterans tend to be from the Vietnam War and Desert Storm, said Holland, explaining that it generally takes veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder about 10 years to reach points in their lives low enough that they need the type of assistance the transition center provides.

Whether veterans need long-term assistance or just have generic veteran-related questions, Holland urges them to call and speak to a case manager.

The Veterans Transition Center is located at 220 12th Street in Marina, known as Martinez Hall, the former Fort Ord Welcome Center. For more information, call 831-883-8387 or visit www.vtcmonterey.org.

Page last updated Fri December 11th, 2009 at 14:01