Brig. Gen. Twanda (Tia) Young, U.S. Army Human Resources Command deputy commanding general, HRC Soldiers and civilian personnel delivered a van full of donated household items to the Robley Rex VA Medical Center here, Dec. 10 - just in time for Christmas.
The household products included bed sheets, towels, vacuum cleaners, inflatable mattresses and other items.
VAMC Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Supervisory Coordinator Jamie Watts, said all the items will be turned over to the Kentucky Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs Supported Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which helps homeless veterans transition into permanent housing. The items are distributed to veterans to help get them started in their new home.
The program is run through Robley Rex VAMC in partnership with HUD. Each veteran is assigned a case manager who assists them with their move into their apartment or house.
"Often our veterans are getting their own place for the first time and we strive to make sure they have something to sit on, eat on, and sleep on," Watts said. "Sometimes the veterans don't have any income but receive food stamps. However, food stamps can't be used to purchase household items or cleaning supplies.
"Although having a safe place to sleep and your own key to lock the door is a great relief, this is really about rebuilding their dignity and becoming a part of the community where they live. Having a place to live that they can be proud of means a lot."
Young said not only does it feel good to give back to family any time, but it is especially important to give back during this time of year.
"It's even more special because we know during the holidays, many experience some situations that they don't necessarily have someone to be with during this time of year," Young said. "So to be able to show an act of kindness, again coming from the family to the brothers and sisters finding themselves not where they want to be at this time, to give a sense of hope that as long as they keep pushing, they can eventually make it and let them know they're not alone."
The VA's Homeless Veterans initiative was launched nationally in 2010 as a way to provide a hand-up to veterans who may have become homeless due to financial difficulties, mental health issues, addiction, or chronic illness.
According to Watts, there are about 200 homeless veterans in Louisville at any given time. She said, VAMC works with about 800 homeless veterans a year, helping almost 300 transition into permanent housing.
Young said these numbers show that the sacrifice and due diligence of those at the VAMC, HRC and the community are making a difference.
"There aren't any words to express what (it feels like) to be able to give back to a veteran and see him or her move forward in doing and being what they want to be," Young said. "This is what we should be doing, giving back to help better our own community. And it's great that bettering that community means we get to see that it's going back to someone who served our country."
HRC has been collecting and donating household items, hygiene products and clothing to the HUD-VASH Program twice yearly since 2013. The command began the effort as a way to give back and support veterans in need and strengthen its partnership with the VA.