'I decided to protect my country, and then I decided to get help.' - LaQuita Branch
Fort Lauderdale, Fla (PRWEB) October 09, 2013
Young mother and Army Veteran LaQuita Branch was struggling to make ends meet while in a tumultuous relationship. Evicted from her house, Branch tearfully sent her children to live with her mother while she fought to overcome depression, leave the relationship and piece her life back together.
She never imagined that she would be homeless.
“Sometimes I stayed at the park because I didn’t want anyone to really know what was going on. I remember staying in Sunland Park, across the street from where my daughter went to school,” Branch said. “I thought, ‘I let them down,’ and prayed and cried all night.”
She turned to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for help. After she walked into the William “Bill” Kling VA Outpatient Clinic, her life changed dramatically. With help from those at the clinic, Branch received mental health and financial counseling, got a job at a warehouse and felt that her life was getting back on track—except she still needed a home for her and her daughters.
Her VA case manager recommended that she contact Elroy John at HOPE4Vets, a program for Veterans operated by HOPE South Florida, an organization that serves people who are homeless.
HOPE4Vets, funded by VA’s Grant and Per Diem program, formed a unique support system for Branch. John and VA Grant and Per Diem liaison Sheila Leroy worked with Branch to place her in a safe home and connect her to VA services. In February, Branch walked hand in hand with her daughters into their new apartment.
“When I got the call from VA about the apartment, I was jumping up and down and shrieking like a little girl seeing Justin Bieber for the first time—the guys at my job gave me a round of applause and said, ‘You did it!’” Branch said.
Branch is one of eight Veterans who recently received housing in Broward County through HOPE4Vets. According to the 2012 Point-in-Time count, there were 370 Veterans who were homeless in Broward County on a single night in January 2012.
HOPE4Vets uses a housing first approach to getting homeless Veterans into housing. Veterans live in government-subsidized apartments while receiving VA support such as vocational services, substance abuse and mental health counseling, medical and dental care. The goal is to treat Veterans for some of the very conditions that may have led to their becoming homeless, then help them get jobs so they can eventually take over the lease payments and transition from VA-supported housing to independence. HOPE4Vets is one of 38 similar projects nationwide funded last fall as part of VA’s commitment to ending homelessness among Veterans.
“The biggest success of the program is giving Veterans time to breathe and reflect, so they can focus on things other than, ‘Where can I sleep tonight?’” John said. “They can look to furthering their skill set, and improving their families and their lives.”
VA is committed to ending homelessness among Veterans by the end of 2015. Veterans who are homeless or in immediate risk of becoming homeless, or who know of a Veteran who is, can call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838) to be connected with VA’s services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The wealth of services provided to secure safe, stable housing for Veterans who are homeless show VA’s dedication to help those, like Branch, get back on their feet.
“I decided to protect my country, and then I decided to get help. I feel like if it weren’t for that one decision to join the Army that I made years ago, my life would be turned upside down. VA never told me ‘no,’ but you have to put your best foot forward, too,” Branch said. “VA lays the foundation, but you have to finish building the building.”
When writing about Veterans who are homeless or in immediate risk of becoming homeless, please include this information:
To help a Veteran who is homeless or in immediate risk of becoming homeless, refer him or her to 877-4AID-VET to talk to a trained responder or to an online chat at va.gov/homeless.