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    Helping the homeless: Veterans Affairs of El Paso work tirelessly to end homeless plight

    Helping the homeless

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch | Felicia Shockey, a homeless outreach social worker from the Veterans Affairs homeless...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch 

    24th Theater Public Affairs Support Element

    Story by Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch

    EL PASO, Texas – Nearly every morning just as the sun starts to come up, a white mini-van with government plates, dusty from the daily desert conditions of El Paso and the occasional off-road jaunt, leaves the parking lot of the Veterans Affairs building on Piedras Street. The back of the vehicle is loaded with food, water, clothing and blankets and first aid medical supplies. In the driver’s seat sits a 35-year-old woman with a job to do.

    Her work takes her far beyond the confines of four walls to any place within the greater El Paso area. Some of the places she frequents are the water tunnels, alleyways, highway underpasses, and fields around the city, all in hopes of finding homeless veterans.

    Felicia Shockey, from Lawrence, Kansas, is a homeless outreach social worker with the El Paso Veterans Affairs. There are an estimated 1,394 homeless people living in El Paso. Shockey’s job is to find the veterans among them, and get them into a shelter and ultimately off the streets for good.

    "I've been doing this job for two years," she said. "I've come across homeless veterans all over and do what I can to help them become active members of society."

    During one of Shockey's recent outings, she met Kelli Galvis, 42, from Indianapolis, a former Navy corpsman. Galvis lives in her motorhome that she parks in various places around the city.

    "I've served with the Navy from ‘92 through ‘95 at Twentynine Palms, Marine Corps Base in California," Galvis said. "I did a short tour before I got out and tried to settle back at home in Indiana, but the home I was staying in got foreclosed."

    After losing her house, the former sailor set out across the U.S. in her motorhome, meeting other travelers along the way.

    "We were dropping off a friend in El Paso," Galvis said. "I then met another veteran who told me about (Shockey) and the work of the Veterans Affairs helping the homeless veterans here."

    Galvis is in the process of securing her benefits from her Navy service.

    "Right now I'm waiting on my pension," she said. "I just got my health care benefits settled in and the VA is in the process of getting me into housing. Things are starting to look up and I'm becoming a lot more secure."

    Veterans who served in the military may have some benefit entitlements from their service such as healthcare, education, and if they are homeless, government housing programs to help them achieve independence. Often, the process to offer assistance and support starts with a quick phone call.

    "I can verify their service over the phone through our eligibility department to see if they served at any point within the military," Shockey said.

    After individuals are found eligible for the VA’s help, they are directed to the nearest Veterans Affairs center, where they are screened, receive medical care, and helped in a variety of programs to provide government housing.

    Once a veteran arrives to a VA center, he can be helped in three ways: The emergency bed program, which is the VA homeless shelter, the Veteran's Transition Living Center, a local organization providing rooms for veterans, and the Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher program, according to Charm A. Mizer, program coordinator, for the VA Healthcare for Homeless Veterans.

    “Our biggest program is HUD-VASH, which is a collaboration between the VA and the housing authority,” Charm said. “We have lots of vouchers to get people into homes and they receive a case manager to help them along.”

    Created in 2008, the HUD-VASH program provides government vouchers for housing to homeless veterans. The employees and volunteers of the VA homeless program encourage homeless veterans to take advantage of the opportunity to get into housing, allowing many struggling individuals to get back on their feet.

    Glenn Longmire, 58, from El Paso, Texas, resides in one of the homes provided through the Veterans Affairs housing program. He and his wife live in a two-bedroom apartment in Northeast El Paso.

    “I’ve been living in here now for a little over a year,” he said. “After I lost my home, I was on the edge. I was trying to figure out what to do. Everything I had was in a storage locker. If it wasn’t for the HUD-VASH program, I don’t know what we would have done.”

    “The program doesn’t just help with housing, you have to understand where these people are coming from,” Longmire said. “I have a bunch of medical needs, but people like my case manager continuously follow up with me. I owe them everything, they got me back on track.”

    Since entering the program, Longmire has returned to school. He is working toward a psychology degree, and looks to give back to those in need still living on the street.

    “There’s a lot of veterans out here that need help but a lot of them don’t want to ask for help,” he said. “When I see a homeless person on the street, I stop and talk to them and ask if he’s a veteran. If he is, I tell him about the program that’s helping me. Lots of people don’t know the benefits they are entitled to as a veteran.”

    With the help of Longmire, Shockey and Mizer are getting the word out.

    "There's no reason any veteran should be homeless," Mizer said. "The services are here and the hard part is only asking. We have 281 vouchers to put homeless veterans in homes here in El Paso. We see people move out of those homes and into their own homes pretty frequently."

    Shockey agreed, adding, "Anyone who served (in the military) and feels they are a veteran should contact us. We're people that care and want to follow up with any homeless veteran to help them provide what they want for themselves. It’s what we want for them."

    For more information or to help out and be a part of the El Paso Veterans Affairs homeless program, contact Mizer at 915-564-6159.



    Date Taken: 12.19.2015
    Date Posted: 12.19.2015 01:56
    Story ID: 184987
    Location: EL PASO, TX, US 
    Hometown: EL PASO, TX, US
    Hometown: INDIANAPOLIS, IN, US
    Hometown: LAWRENCE, KS, US

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