Veterans Stories

A success story

When one thinks of the word success, most think of money and/or monetary things. The word Success truly has the simple meaning of the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. I knew there would be difficulties to face when legally separating from my children's father, but I had no idea the full extent of what strength I would need to truly survive the eventual divorce and make a life here for my girl's that was better than what I endured as a child. Long story short- I had no family support and found myself homeless. I was attempting to fall back on the only resource that I knew available to me at the time which was my GI Bill. I soon learned about all the organizations that could aid me. Thomas Ramey and the Southwestern Community Action Council, Inc. (SCAC) office were extremely helpful and really went out of their way to see smiles on my little girls faces. I have tears in my eyes typing this letter and I can't express in words my gratitude.
Providing me with financial assistance for rent and utilities really took a huge weight off my shoulders. Helping also with providing food, dishes, utensils, cleaning supplies, and even beds, was so much more than I could ever expect. As Christmas was creeping around the corner, the office surprised my kids with gifts. To see the pure joy on their faces was beyond heartwarming. The individuals at the SWCAC office truly cared about me and my kids and that means so much when you know that your own family doesn't. This gave me a sense of encouragement and determination to keep pushing forward.
I was able to get assistance through referrals to have my girls in a great day care facility with Marshall University while I attended classes full time. Unfortunately, I quickly learned how difficult the divorce would be as I was faced with severe depression and guilt for running away from an abusive relationship. I realized I was also going to need intensive therapy for my mind. It was very difficult for me to accept that I needed help. I had to get my mind right before I could align everything else to achieve my ultimate goal of providing a wholesome life for my children. I realized what's most important in life, my kids!
Once I was refocused, I started climbing! I decided school would have to be put on hold and I would have to start working in order to pay the bills. I started working with the Workforce WV Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialist (DVOPS) to help me overcome barriers to employment. I was able to gain full time employment making minimum wage. That wasn't good enough for me. I set my sights on a position working for Workforce Investment Board as a front desk receptionist. I was able to get professional attire, job couching and a special kind of encouragement through Dress for Success. That position enabled me to network with numerous people and show my potential. I was able to apply and obtain a DVOPS position with Workforce WV. I now help Veterans from a unique perspective.
The resources available to me, and the drive and determination within, allowed me to succeed. I have been able to buy myself and my girls our Forever Home. I have secured permanent employment with benefits and have been afforded the opportunity to be a board member of DFS. Homeless Veterans Resource Center, SWCAC, SSVF, Dress for Success, VAMC Huntington, and Workforce WV, have all helped me to accomplish my ultimate goal of providing my children with a happy and healthy childhood.
This letter is being written as a thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I would not have
achieved any amount of success without help. I am now able to give back to others who also need it.

Sincerely thank you,

​Tara Williams
Navy Vet Akers said two words that should never be together:  Homeless Veterans
Akers was displaced by building condemnation
 "I think it is a disgrace in the USA to have two words together - homeless and veterans, said 59-year-old Huntington resident Frank Akers.
 
Akers found himself homeless when the building in which he had resided was condemned by the health department due to black mold.
 
"I had nothing to start over to get housing.  Sure I was struggling before, but I was housed.  My world took a devastating turn overnight." he said.
 
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be homeless.  I had always worked and taken care of myself.  It was difficult finding myself sleeping on the porches of condemned houses. When you have no place to turn on the electric or flush the commode, you realize what rock bottom feels like."
 
Akers, a gay man and Navy veteran, said his life has been riddled with humbling experiences, being an earlier military veteran when being gay was considered a mental illness and was illegal.
"But being homeless and no place to go was the most humbling," he said.  Akers said SSVF provided a rapid response to get him housing.
 
"Sometimes it requires some humility to ask for help," he concluded.  The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families (SSVF) program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
 
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.
Homeless Marine has "Roof Over Head" for children
Homeless Marine has a "Roof Over Head" for three children
Shawn Ashworth is a US Marine veteran from Huntington who found he and his children, with which he has custody, homeless for the first time.
 
"I feel like I'm on the upswing in life, with a roof over our heads," said Ashworth, having had the housing provided by SSVF for about four months.
 
He said he found himself and family sleeping in old cars.
 
Ashworth said he had suffered bouts of depression, having family problems, a custody battle and losing his job. He has recently obtained new employment.
 
"Not having a place for my three kids so I can be a father, was a situation that plunged me into the darkness." he said.  “My kids are my life.”
 
Ashworth called Thomas Ramey, SSVF coordinator, "A miracle worker."
 
"I hope to never go through such times again," Ashworth explained. “Now that I have a job and have been connected to helping agencies and groups, our lives are so much better.” 
 
The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families [SSVF] program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
 
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.
Conover Homeless After Suffering Emotional Crisis
Conover displays keys to his new abode after being homeless
 Fifty-two-year-old Robert Conover of Huntington was a general contractor for 25 years, and found himself in crisis after the death of his wife, he was admitted to a crisis unit.
 
A veteran of the US Army, Conover said he has 11 brothers who have served in the military.
 
"I never expected to find myself homeless, but I always told myself it was temporary, and with some help I'd pull myself out of this," he said.
 
Conover said he lived on the river (Ohio River), the stereotypical "under the bridge" homeless. "I still have a couple friends who are there," he said.
"A lot of veterans have serious mental health problems and many of them are too proud to ask for help."
 
Conover, who is a recovering addict, said Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) "Threw me a rope when I was in a 10 foot hole."
 
"A number of agencies have helped. I'm still living at the City Mission while I work on my new place," he said, doing extensive remodeling to his newly acquired home.
 
"When you're down and out, some agencies put you on a list, but SSVF was a beacon that took action quickly," he said.
    
The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families (SSVF) program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
 
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.
A homeless "cooking stove" along the Ohio River Conover said "I know the life of having no home"
Landlord likely hit the jackot, carpenter trained Covover is meticulously restoring new home
Young Army vet Blankenship disputes homeless stereotype
Blankenship and wife keep a family album recounting their early married life and homelessness
"I think most people have a stereotype of the homeless," said 28-year-old Aaron Blankenship, a three-year veteran of the US Army.
 
"Many Americans are a paycheck from being homeless, or after facing unforeseen circumstances," he said.
 
Blankenship (left) and his young pregnant wife got "tossed out" of a family owned dwelling, both were students at Southern Community College at the time.
 
They found themselves sleeping in a tent off the beaten path near Huntington.
"It was a trying time for us, my wife pregnant, working wherever I could, and worrying where we would get our next meal," Blankenship said.

Speaking of Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF), he said "They saved my life," after he and his wife had been living in a tent near Huntington, both now enrolled at Marshall University.

Blankenship is also working on getting an Underwriters License, and is now working at a new job.

"The agencies outreach worker Thomas Ramey was a savior, bringing blessed relief," he said.  Blankenship has been with SSVF for 90 days, and he and his wife are rebuilding their life in a well-kept apartment.  "We are picking up the pieces and finally beginning the process of putting our lives back together," he concluded.  Many homeless veterans sleep in tents, cars and vacant buildings.

The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families (SSVF) program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.

Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.
Many homeless veterans sleep in tents, cars and vacant buildings
Couple display photos of baby soon to be delivered.

Homeless Vet Costen Displaced By Housing Condemnation

Costen found himself homeless after his housing was condemned with no money, shown with his dog "Sukie" that helps relieve PTSD

 Fifty-three-year-old Timothy Costen, a long serving US Army veteran, found himself homeless when his longtime residence at the Prichard Hotel was condemned and closed.
 
Fifty residents of the building were permanently displaced.
 
Costen, who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is disabled, was homeless for two months, sleeping wherever he could.
 
"I got put on housing lists, and had little money to start over," he said.
 
"Finding a new place, coming up with the deposit money, would have been impossible without the helping hand of SSVF. I'm settled again, they took care of the small details that are overwhelming to me, a small investment achieving a lot."
 
Costen (left) lives with his service dog "Sukie," which helps relieve his stress disorder.
 
"It was a very trying time, I could feel myself sliding down a dark tube," he said, now comforted that he has a roof over his head.
 
The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families (SSVF) program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
 
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.
Army Vet "Cowboy" Homeless When Wife Died
Paul France, nicknamed "Cowboy," who has numerous medical
problems, has posted a photo of his deceased wife and family in
his new apartment, where his mattress occupying his living room
  
"It happened quickly, my wife of nine years died in her house in 2010, and her family moved in and threw me out," said Paul "Cowboy" France.
 
Seventy-year-old France, a US Army Veteran and recovering alcoholic of 15 years, said those who kicked him out continue to have significant drug problems.
 
"I've slept in cars, tents and old buildings, until Southwestern helped me find a place and then bought me a mattress," he said. "I was at the bottom of the barrel. It was a wonderful thing to put my head on a pillow."
 
The agency often provides the initial rent, deposits, groceries, kitchen items and a bed, and networks with other agencies to provide services and find employment.
 
France said, "Most people take it for granted when they have a bed and pillow to sleep on"
"I felt worthless as a homeless person," he said, "but I held on to a hope for life," said France, who worked 25 years as a truck driver.
France, who suffers from arthritis and diabetes, relied on local food pantries and "soup kitchens" while surviving one-day-at-a-time. He is currently assisting in keeping clean the complex in which he lives.

He came from a family of ten, saying his own children are now struggling with many problems.
"I now have a place I can call home," France concluded.
The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families (SSVF) program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.

Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.
Navy Vet Hall Homeless After High Medical Bills
Navy Vet Hall homeless after high medical bills
  
"There are people who care about homeless veterans," said 53-year-old David Hall of Huntington, who said health problems put him deep in debt, causing him to become homeless.
 
Hall, who has been sober from alcohol for 12 years, is a six year Navy veteran with four years in the reserves.
 
"I found myself sleeping in my car, after getting eviction and termination notices, and no where to turn," he said.
 
"SSVF saved me. I thought I was going to have to stay at the homeless mission where I had once been a maintenance worker," he said.
 
Hall worked in heating and air conditioning most of his life, until his health failed.
"I never wanted to use any system, just make it, but I found myself with my last straw," Hall said.
 
Hall now has housing and is "making it.”  He concluded, “If anyone wants to know how important this program is just come by my new place and see living proof.” 
 
The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families (SSVF) program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
 
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.


Cab Driver Lloyd Got In Overhead With Bills, Becomes Homeless
Army vet Lloyd first time homeless was sleeping in adandoned buildings
 Cab driver and US Army veteran Kenneth Lloyd Jr. found himself homeless in Huntington.
 
"I got behind in my bills," saying it happened so quickly, sleeping in old buildings or wherever he could.
 
"It was my first time homeless, but I suppose I could share some of the blame" he said. “For those that have never experienced homelessness, they would never understand how helpless a person can feel.”
 
"I never ever imagined that I would find myself that way."
 
He lauded SSVF, whose mission is to quickly find housing for homeless veterans.
 
Lloyd was quickly placed in a housing unit, with a roof over his head.
 
The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families (SSVF) program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
 
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.
Homeless Veteran Blount A Success Story, Overcoming Addiction
Homeless veteran Bount is a success story
Veteran Moses Blount, 56, spoke about his troubled life with drugs, addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol.
 
Having gone to prison, he was released on parole in Huntington, and found himself homeless, at times living in at the Mission.
 
"When I went to housing agencies, I got put on a list, but SSVF got me a place and a mattress real quick," said Blount.
 
"I never thought I'd end up homeless and hit the bottoms I have."
 
"I just could never get enough money to make the deposits for rent and utilities, until SSVF came along. They even provided me with bus passes which helped a lot," Blount said.
"Blount is a success stories, having moved into housing in 2014," said Thomas Ramey, SSVF Outreach Coordinator
 
Blount said he had made many mistakes, burdened by many problems, but life is better now.
 
The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families (SSVF) program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
 
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.

Twelve Year Army Vet Discovers Sudden Homelessness
Homeless vet Napier with son in new found housing  
 Thirty-four-year old homeless vet John Napier said, "Under no circumstance did I ever dream of finding myself in this spot."
 
The 12 year Army veteran, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he was evicted from a house owned by family members following a dispute.
 
"I've seen things change quickly in the military, but this homeless thing happened so quick," Napier said.
 
"I've traveled the world to see terrible poverty, and here I find myself."
 
He described a longtime negative relationship with his father, the reason why he joined the military. Napier described a number of physically abusive events, in addition to long time emotional abuse.  

"As a child I lived with constant abuse."
 
Napier now has three children, age three, six and seven.
 
He said he slept in parks and woods, having worked as an EMT, in janitorial services and in construction work.
 
"I know what it's like to live from paycheck to paycheck, and not having money to start over" said Napier. “When I walked into the office at Southwestern, my feet were swollen, with one toenail shattered and bleeding.  I was defeated with nowhere else to turn.”
 
"Having a roof over my head with the help of SSVF has been a godsend," he said, looking for the delivery of a mattress provided by the agency.  
 The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families [SSVF] program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
 
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.  
Tragic Events Led Military Couple To Homelessness
Osofsky and wife ended up homeless after a series of events, including the death of their son
 Dave and Terry Osofsky, married 34 years, found themselves homeless in Huntington following a series of tragic events, Dave a 13 year Army vet and Terry served four years in the military.
 
"It has been quite a journey," said Osofsky, who has worked in the computer technical field, saying their life began really falling apart when they lost their 28-year-old son in a 2011 motorbike accident.
 
"We lived in our car with a son and a dog along the (Ohio) river.  Nearby many homeless sleep under the bridge in tents," he said.
 
"My wife had a serious mental breakdown, the walls of the car closing in, and she sought help, and got it, at the Huntington VA hospital." 
  
"It was a blessing she went into the hospital. Without the help of SSVF, it would have been a hard row."

Outreach Coordinator Thomas Ramey said, "The Osofsky family is one of the SSVF success stories.  Their biggest problem was overcoming the financial hurdle of deposits. 
 
Once they were housed, Dave was able to find a job.  This program has helped them to regain control of their own lives, and the ability to map out a happy future."

 The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families [SSVF] program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
 
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.
Couple returns to Huntington's riverfront where they spent months just trying to survive
Community Agencies Have "Warm Heart" for Homeless Vets
Helping hands (L-R) Carla Ferguson, housing director; homeless vet with new home Steven Pelfrey, SSVF outreach working Thomas Ramey
 Carla Ferguson, Director of Lincoln Unity Apartments in West Hamlin, said "Helping veterans, and providing housing through SSVF is a way I can feel good about my job."
 
"We can make a difference in their lives," she said.
 
Ferguson provided housing for long-time Navy veteran Steven Pelfrey, 62, who also served in the Marines for three years.
 
Pelfrey, a truck driver and baker, said following a conflict with his daughter, he found himself living under a bridge.
 
"Although I had an income, I had no money saved and couldn't come up with the deposits," he said.
 
Pelfrey says he spends part of his day helping around the housing development.
 
SSVF Outreach worker Ramey said, "Most community agencies have warm hearts," praising the housing development for their help. “When agencies like ours can partner for the betterment of 
the veteran, it makes all the difference. Building and nurturing these types of relationships creates the needed environment conducive to ending veteran homelessness.”
 
Ferguson said housing agencies help keep money in communities.
 
"We are grateful to have a working relationship with SSVF," she concluded.
 
The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families [SSVF] program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
 
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.  


Air Force Vet Paycheck Away From Being Homeless
Air Force Vet homeless after missing two paychecks
Sixty-year-old Huntington native and Air Force veteran Rodney Miller says he was only two paychecks from being homeless.  And the circumstances turned from hypothetical to realty overnight. 
 
"Losing my job in customer service was a killer," he said, becoming homeless for the first time, and suffering from serious medical problems.
 
Miller was quickly found an apartment by SSVF, who acquired a bed for him, emergency groceries, kitchen essentials, and job placement referrals. 
 
"The program got me back on my feet.  I’m working, but looking for other opportunities every single day," Miller said. "I wish SSVF could buy furniture.  But with their help and referrals, I know we will find furnishings for my apartment."
 The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families [SSVF] program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
 
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits
Navy Vet Wingerd "Just Didn't Fit In," Homeless Multiple Times
Wingerd's sparse housekeeping items are an American flag adn relitious artifacts he has acquired since being placed
 Veteran Ernest Wingerd, 53, said he has had a troubled life, saying "I'm the kind of guy who just doesn't fit in anywhere."
 
Having served a prison sentence, "I've been a construction worker for years, and have really tried to make it," saying he has been disconnected from his family for years.
 
"I still want to go home," near Martinsburg WV.
 
He served in the US Navy for five years.
   
Wingerd says he is use to a lonely life, now living close to community services "I know what it's like to be homeless and hopeless," he said, "but I've always trusted God that a path will be found," saying he has been sober and clean for 8 years.
"I've slept in cars, dumpsters, abandoned houses and in the woods," he said.
  
"I was told about SSVF, and they helped me find a place and a mattress," he said.

The Supportive Services for Veteran's Families (SSVF) program in Huntington, which also serves several
West Virginia counties, is designed to life very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing.
  
Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits. 
Former homeless vet sas, "It's a humbling thing to need a bed, and now have one"
Wood Homeless WithSevere Disabilities
Homeless vet Wood suffers serious disabilities
 42-year-old Keith Wood, a US Army veteran, was recently rapidly re-housed by SSVF at Southwestern after sleeping in a car for three months, not his first homeless experience.
 
Wood has multiple health problems, from PTSD to a heart condition and emphysema, and is under constant medical supervision.
 
"My family knows problems well, my mother put me out of the house when I was 12, because of the man she was living with," Wood said. "I learned homelessness early."
 
He has been recovering from alcoholism for three years.  Wood said because of his disabilities, he has had a difficult time making a living.

"This last time homeless, I was at my wits end, no where to go, no where to turn.  I was giving up, when someone told me about the SSVF program."
"Unless I find an income, I could be homeless again," he said. “My SSVF case manager is doing all he can to help.  He is constantly referring me to places to sign up for financial help.  We’re doing all we can to secure myself an income. I’m just not in any condition to work.  I hope in the end I am granted my disability.”
  
The Supportive Services for Veteran’s Families [SSVF] program in Huntington, which also serves several West Virginia counties, is designed to lift very low-income veteran families out of homelessness and into stable permanent housing. Through this program Southwestern Community Action and their SSVF program provides comprehensive assistance in the areas of case management, outreach, temporary financial assistance, and referrals to help in obtaining VA benefits.