Highlight: Goodwill Industries of Orange County
Menzi Salazar, a post-9/11 Army veteran, has a service-connected disability, and was unemployed. She was referred to the Tierney Center for Veteran Services by one of our community partners, Adrian Conger at the OC OneStop. Caleb Garcia, one of our Job Developers, then began assisting her.
Menzi served in Germany as Mess Administrative Specialist in the Army. She is bi- lingual in English and Tagalog, an Austronesian language with about 57 million speakers in the Philippines. She is currently married to another Army veteran, who is a chef, and they are raising a child together. Currently Menzi and her family are living at her father’s home.
One of the barriers to employment Menzi experienced was her interviewing skills, due to her shyness. Additionally, she was considered over-educated because she has earned two Masters Degrees and a law degree.
When Menzi came to us she had been through more than 20 interviews without being employed. At that time, she was discouraged and desperate and was willing to take any job. She was even tempted to take commission-only jobs, sales jobs or waiting tables.
Menzi was interviewed by our Veterans Services Manager, Jeff Pagano, and by our Vocational Rehabilitation Program Supervisor, Bill Morisette. Bill and Jeff identified and agreed that Menzi’s interviewing skills were weak and needed improvement. At that time Bill Morisette took over her case and did a resume analysis with her and readjusted her resume to fit several Federal jobs to include the EEOC, Social Security Administration, Department of Labor and a few others. These positions were more in line with her education and skills, as well as her aspirations.
We invited Menzi to attend one of our Veteran Business Network mixers, where she could connect and meet other veterans in business in Orange County. There we met her husband, Chris. This allowed Menzi to become more self-confident in meeting new people and being social in a business context, make some connections, and get some business cards for follow-up.
Through the Tierney Center Menzi went through more than five hours of one-on-one interviewing skills training. We also had her husband there to observe what she needed to work on. He also worked with her in mock interviews at home to help her build her skills.
After she was confident that she was prepared for interviews we sent her to the EEOC to interview for an investigator position, in Los Angeles, where she was the second person on the hiring list for a direct hire. Bill Morisette talked to the hiring manager,
Tom Profit the Director of HR, where he reported her interviewing skills were fine, it was just her job skills did not match the position being offered.
Bill then setup an interview for Menzi with the District Manager, Tiffany Simmons, of the Social Security Administration where after the interview she referred Menzi for a background check and wanted her for a paid internship as an administrative assistant.
That same week Bill setup an interview for her with Social Security Agency in Garden Grove, CA for an administrative clerk position with Lance Lee, the District Manager. The interview went very well and she was offered a paid internship but no position as they were under a hiring freeze at that time.
Bill also set Menzi up with an interview with the department of Labor. Menzi met with Nancy Ise, The Director of Investigations for an Examiner/Investigator position, but was not offered the position.
Menzi was given a second interview with the Director of the Social Security Administration in Garden Grove and got the paid internship on November 7th where she now works.
In an email from Menzi to Bill Morisette before she got the internship, she said, “I can never thank you enough for giving me pointers, Chris and I practiced last night. We drove and found the place right away.”
Bill heard from Menzi recently and she said she is applying for two new positons with the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Labor that she heard about through our email blasts. Even though she is in the start of her internship she continues to actively pursue a permanent position. Menzi continues to maintain weekly communications with Bill on how her internship is going. Menzi loves her new internship and hopes to get hired permanently.
Before when we met Menzi, she was doubtful and discouraged, but now she is upbeat and has much more confidence and hope about the future for her and her family. With her new confidence and skills, we know she will do well.
Highlight: Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York Inc.
The setting was an unlikely one for success in meeting with veterans. The Wyoming County (NY) Fair hadn’t been particularly busy—the location was poor, the weather had been unusually hot and humid, and any veterans passing by were more interested in getting to the tractor pull than in meaningful engagement. In addition, Chris Hare, the outreach and engagement specialist manning the booth, was new to the Veterans’ One Stop Center of Western New York. A
Marine newly separated from the Corps, he had been with One Stop for just two weeks. Still, despite the booth being tucked between the Jehovah’s Witnesses and an insurance agency, Chris caught the eye of a veteran, Stanley, in need of assistance.
Stanley, also a Marine, and his wife stopped to talk about medical issues the 24-year old veteran was having. Despite a back problem that left him 80 percent service-connected disabled, Stanley could not get a medical appointment at the Veterans Administration Medical Center to pursue surgery. He had been trying for months and was frustrated.
Chris, though new to the agency, assured Stanley the Veteran’s One Stop Center would intervene on his behalf. The advocate assigned to Stanley’s case contacted him later that same day and scheduled an appointment for the next morning, which worked with Stanley’s schedule as he had been out of work on disability while attempting to deal with the issue. With Stanley and his wife in the office, the advocate called the local VA Medical Center in Batavia and was able to speak to a scheduling nurse who scheduled a consult just a few days later.
Stanley called immediately after his appointment and was thrilled at the level of care he’d encountered. All of his medical concerns had been addressed. The VA maintains that Stanley is too young for the surgery initially under consideration, but he is scheduled for an appointment with a neurologist to determine alternative courses of action. Though the desired surgery has not been offered to him, Stanley now has faith in the system again and is reengaged with both the Veterans Administration and the veteran community.
Veteran’s One Stop Center also connected Stanley with the Genesee County Veterans Service Organization to file an increase on his disability claim. The paperwork has all been filed and Stanley and his service officer are optimistic on the outcome.
The faith Stanley regained in the system was especially important, as a few weeks later he had to undergo throat surgery. Chris followed up with him recently to see how things are going. This veteran initially had disagreed that he was able to adapt to changes or that he was able to bounce back after illness, injury, or hardship and didn’t even have a response to whether he felt supported by his community but he now has a more positive outlook. In the words of his outreach specialist, “From the first time that I met this Warrior, to now, I can definitely hear a more upbeat tone to his voice, that can only be attributed to the work done to improve this Warrior’s quality of life.”
Engaging with Veterans who live in rural communities like Stanley is always a challenge, but at Veterans One Stop Center of Western New York, we’re proud to advocate for Warriors like Stanley and continue to look for unique opportunities for active outreach and engagement.
T.F. is a veteran with complex needs. Earlier this year, he suffered a personal loss: an immediate family member had succumbed to cancer. To compound matters, he lost his job. A friend of T.F., concerned with his wellbeing, referred him to the Tierney Center for Veteran Service (TCVS).
By the time T.F. was referred to TCVS, he had been unemployed for nearly three months and was behind on rent. TCVS’s Outreach Specialist engaged with him in late spring 2016. An initial conversation found that the veteran required multiple interventions including assistance with gaining employment, financial assistance to bridge the financial gap from the back rent, transportation getting to and from Veteran Resource meetings and job interviews, and clothing, and interview coaching.
After working to tear down the barriers in T.F.’s various needs, the TCVS team was able to provide him with new skills for interviews which led to more successful interviews and his eventual employment with a local aerospace corporation. T.F. was also connected with a Veteran Community Resource partner that paid for two months of his rent. TCVS also provided him with bus passes and new steel toed work boots that were required for his new job.
TCVS’s engagement with T.F. occurred over a period of three months and started when he was forced to confront his most basic needs. TCVS team’s continuous relationship and commitment with T.F. helped him achieve stability and normalcy.
The TCVS team will continue periodic follow-ups with T.F. to ensure he has the resources to maintain his current success.
Beverly was concerned about her older brother, Phillip, an Army veteran who served stateside during the Korean conflict years. She searched the internet, and called The Tierney Center for Veteran Services in Tustin, CA. She talked with Patrick Thomson, Veteran Outreach Specialist, and explained what problems her brother was having, physically, emotionally and financially. At that time an appointment was set. Beverly, Phillip and Patrick met at the Tierney Center’s conference room and it was very clear that Phillip was in a downward spiral. He was overwhelmed with worry about his financial situation. He continually had to borrow money monthly from his sister and occasionally from outside sources, at high-interest rates. He was living like a miser, going backwards from $200-$300 every month. Also, he was having physical problems, mainly his hearing.
About ½ hour into the meeting, Roger Martinez, Veteran Employment Specialist, joined us in the conference room and talked with Phillip about employment. For so long he had thought of himself as unemployable because of his age, 79. Roger made it very clear that Phillip could, and should work again. Once he was convinced that working part-time could solve his problems, his whole demeanor changed. Hope was alive and well.
After the meeting, Beverly, Phillip and Patrick adjourned to the office of Chanel Sanchez, Veteran Services Coordinator, with a background in nursing. She immediately became aware of Phillip’s hearing problem and then directed him to the Veterans Service Office in Santa Ana, CA to open a disability claim. Then, Chanel directed him to visit Mr. Albert Stone at the One-Stop Center in Garden Grove, a state-run program that provides comprehensive employment and training services. Mr. Stone specializes in helping seniors secure part-time jobs.
After the meeting, the next step was for Patrick to visit Phillip in Anaheim. He was living in a small room at a very old motel and paying rent weekly. He had an interesting name for the owner of the motel, Dragon Lady. You can imagine the rest. The first thing he did was to pull out his guitar. He told Patrick that he is a man that loves to play his guitar and sing for people. He then pulled up a chair, sat up straight and assertively stated, “This song will let you know exactly what I need.” He then energetically began strumming his guitar. In a voice that was at least 40 years younger than his actual age of almost 80, he confidently sang a famous song by the Beatles:
The best things in life are free, but you can keep ’em for the birds and bees.
Now give me money (that’s what I want). That’s what I want (that’s what I want).
That’s what I want (that’s what I want), yeah. That’s what I want…
Phillip did go to the Veterans Service Office. There, he filed a disability claim for his hearing problem. Then, as directed, Phillip visited Albert Stone at the One-Stop Center in Garden Grove. He followed Albert’s instructions and on his second interview he landed a great part-time job. He currently works Tuesdays and Thursdays for Patriots and Paws, a local non-profit that helps veterans with service dogs and furniture.
Phillip is enjoying being back in the workforce again. Now, with enough money to pay all of his bills, there’s money left over for entertainment, hobbies & travel. He has his life back; he has his self-dignity back. He is one happy veteran. When asked, if he would recommend the Tierney Center for Veteran Services at Goodwill of Orange County he enthusiastically responded, “You better believe I would.”
Anita, a 32-year-old Post-9/11 Navy veteran, came in the office seeking assistance with securing an internship for her Associates Degree in Medical Billing from Genesee Community College. She reported that she has tried applying to several places in Batavia for an internship, however; she was denied. At the recommendation of the Mental Health Association of Genesee & Orleans, we had Jessica contact the Genesee County Mental Health Department. We assisted her in securing an interview for the veteran for June 23rd. The next day, Jessica came into the office and informed me that she was accepted and will start her internship on July 7th. She was informed that there was a strong possibility of it leading to full-time employment.
Nicole can describe coming out of the service in one word: Overwhelming.
Nicole served in the Navy for 24 years and retired as a Master at Arms. Nicole’s last tour was in Guantanamo Bay, at one of the high-level detainee camps, where she worked as an Evidence Custodian. Nicole’s mission was kept top secret and she is very limited to what she can say about it other than it was “a life-changing experience.”
“When I got out of the service it was overwhelming to me because you spend so much time thinking about how I want to complete this,” Nicole says. “And, then when you’re faced with it all of the sudden, you’ve reached the top of this hill, and you’re not prepared for what’s down the other side. It’s just a free-fall.”
Nicole’s feelings are quite common. She was trained to be part of a world that is exclusive unto itself, and coming out of that world is often like entering an alien landscape. “It took me a while to make that transition, because the Navy was all that I knew, and that’s what I trusted,” Nicole says. “And in the back of my mind, I always thought it was going to be there. And they were like, okay, you’re no longer a part of this organization. And that was a very big transition for me.”
Nicole became reclusive, to the point where she spent almost six months inside her home. “I didn’t want to go out in public,” she says. “I didn’t want to go to the grocery store. And I knew I had to go back to work, and I had to get on my feet, but it was overwhelming.” But despite all of the training and work experience Nicole gained during her time in the Navy she had a difficult time finding work when she reentered civilian life. Then, through the preacher at her mother’s church in North Greenville, Nicole was introduced to Upstate Warrior Solution. The team asked Nicole for her resume and connected her with a job within two weeks. With a new job and new confidence, Nicole was soon eager to give back to the community. She attended a Peer Support Specialist training course with UWS and is now “on-call” as a peer mentor volunteer to share her experience and offer perspective and empathy to others struggling with the return to civilian life.
“I’m just grateful that Upstate Warrior Solution has taken the time to help the people that are right here in the Upstate,” Nicole says. “It’s very hard to admit that you can’t figure things out on your own. It’s a big issue. I’m just thankful, on many levels, that there was an organization that was willing to help me get my feet back under me.”
The Veterans One-stop Center of WNY’s Batavia office participated in training with the VA Police, NYS Veterans Defense Program, and the Batavia Police Department on Veterans issues and available services. As a direct result of this training, two weeks later on 28 March we received a phone call from the Batavia Police. They had observed a veteran named Frederick sleeping on a bench near the police station and wanted to know if they could bring him over.
Upon meeting Frederick we learned that he had started a job that day but was still two weeks away from his first paycheck. He had no housing, no transportation, no possessions but the clothes on his back, and no way to eat until his first paycheck came in. We immediately started processing him for SSVF, and we made contact with two local church groups who provided two weeks of temporary housing in a motel as well as gift cards for food. We got him several sets of clothes from the Salvation Army, and our Veterans Advocate, Jim, donated a spare bicycle to help him get back and forth to his job. Today, he has completed the SSVF process and is waiting for the check to be mailed to his landlord to get him into permanent housing. He is paying his own way and doing well, and still rides his new bicycle to work every day.
Vernon has been coming to the Veterans One-stop Center since 2013. He recently admitted that he had been struggling with the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress. He reported that he had attempted suicide several months prior, and was currently ‘only’ dealing with ideation. After evaluating the current threat Vernon posed to himself, his Care Manager secured a commitment to not harm himself and to attend PTS treatments. VOCWNY staff then helped him enroll as WWP alumni. Shortly after we called the resource center and they were able to get him to be sent to Boston General Hospital for 12 days specializing in PTSD treatment. At this program he will receive therapy, as well as a reevaluation of his medications. He will also get to attend a Boston Red Socks game. He mentioned, “He was really thankful for the work of the VOC of WNY and the Wounded Warrior Project. He leaves 8 May 2016 and comes back on the 20th.
Paul is a 27-year-old Operation Iraqi Freedom combat Veteran who was introduced to us directly by the team at the VA Medical Center’s Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (SARP). The Veterans One-stop Center’s strong relationship with the local VA Medical Center has allowed up to move upstream and engages the Warriors early, rather than waiting until too late. We made initial contact with Paul the day prior to his discharge and arranged for him to get directly to the One-stop Center upon discharge. From here we were able to enroll him in Wounded Warrior Program, e-Benefits, screen him for assistance with a legal issue, and get him started with Operation Homefront. Paul is continuing to work without Legal Team and our Peer Support program. We are assisting his Emotional Health and Well-being and Housing Stability as he awaits permanent housing.
Clarence is a 49-year-old, 24 year Army National Guard veteran who has worked with the Veterans One-stop Center for several years to receive assistance with legal, housing, financial, and mental health concerns. Clarence is currently attending Erie Community College (ECC) in order to gain skills, which will allow him to maintain a better paying job. However, Clarence came into bad standing for failure to pay his tuition. Although he was not able to receive any additional veteran assistance through the VA, the State, or the School, the Veterans One-stop Center was able to advocate for his continued enrollment. ECC and veteran agreed to a promissory note and payment schedule to ensure veteran remains enrolled in school.
Carlene is a 24-year-old, single black male who presented at the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY in August of 2015 as a literally homeless Veteran. He was housed at Altamont Transitional Housing for Veterans. Carlene is a veteran of the United States Army and served as a Human Resources Specialist. He was discharged in 2013 under honorable conditions.
At the time of his intake, Carlene was not ready to pursue independent housing due to a lack of income and exacerbations of his mental health issues. VOCWNY recommended to him that he explore filing for VA disability for a back injury and his mental health issues. Working with the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY and the VA, he filed for his disability and was recently awarded a 100% rating. This award allowed him to be able to independently afford his own apartment and establish his own financial independence this month. Carlene is currently exploring the idea of starting college courses in the fall of 2016.
On the evening of 10 December, PWP received a phone call from the veterans benefits counselor from the University of West Florida. They had a veteran in the office facing a homeless situation. The veteran and his 16-year-old autistic daughter had been staying in the campus dorm with the eldest daughter, a student at UWF. He and his juvenile daughter were being evicted by Campus Police and had nowhere to go. PWP spoke with him concerning the immediate need for shelter and found a temporary place in Pensacola. The veteran was unwilling to take his autistic daughter to a homeless shelter. PWP transported the veteran to the VA for vet certification. With that paperwork in hand, they were to 90 works in Pensacola, SSVF & VASHUD program manager, where they screened him into their program. A delayed response from 90work required PWP to actively seek assistance from the VA Homeless Healthcare coordinator in Escambia county. Their involvement pushed an accelerated response from 90 works and secured temporary housing until more permanent housing was found.
Clarence is an Army National Guard Veteran who served from 1984-2014 with a deployment to Afghanistan in 2008. He first entered the VOCWNY in October 2013. Clarence was going through a divorce and was staying at an emergency shelter. He was employed as a van driver. With collaboration with Healthcare for Homeless Veterans, Clarence was placed in transitional housing. He originally had been working with us to find permanent housing, but his original housing allowed for up to 2 years, so he decided to stay his term there. Clarence began working with Goodwill to find additional employment and was successfully employed at Red Robin in November 2013. In the interim Clarence also utilized our legal services. He returned to VOCWNY in September as his term with the transitional housing was ending and was successfully housed with a HUD/VASH voucher in October 2015. Clarence is now back in school and working toward his future.
A referral from Goodwill Legacy Corps led us to meet a Pre 9/11, 2-year AF Veteran, who was hit by a DUI driver and received spinal injuries and thus has limited mobility. Additionally, the veteran has a recurring brain tumor (non-cancerous), a tumor in her respiratory system and to make matters worse her mother tried to kill her. On top of all of this, a microburst hit her storage area, which lifted the roof off, damaging about 85% of her belongings. She was actually out-of-state being medically treated at the time when this occurred, and her items were exposed to the elements for over 3 weeks. Water damage and mold destroyed almost all of her personal effects, to include bed, loveseat, dressers, linens, pots and pans, etc. She had her items stored, as she was moving into a new place in FWB after her medical treatment had concluded. PWP referred her to a group called “Almost Sixty and Still Sexy”, they in turn adopted her and have provided linens, towels, furniture, and food gift cards. PWP received a donated bed and box spring from a referred friend of a volunteer, picked it up and delivered to the client’s home the day before Thanksgiving. She was sleeping on an air mattress prior to this, which is very painful for someone with a back/spinal injury. Goodwill and PWP picked up a donated loveseat and delivered it to her last week. Our work isn’t done, as we continue to find donated furniture for her so she can have a place to call home again. PWP was able to provide her immediate needs in less than a week.
Army Veteran Frank served 8 years in the Army with a deployment to Iraq. Frank first came into the VOCWNY in July 2015 seeking help with employment. Frank had been unemployed for a few months and had been actively seeking employment. Frank had training in HVAC and had been previously employed as an HVAC technician. Upon intake with his care manager, Matt; Frank was referred to Goodwill for job development. In September a Buffalo HVAC company, 72 degrees, hired Frank as a technician. He is excited about getting back to work utilizing his trade.
Approximately 9 months ago an advocate came into contact with a veteran who was two weeks away from being homeless. The veteran was working in a minimum wage labor-intensive job, and his roommate was moving which would result in insufficient funds to cover the rent. During the initial interview, the advocate saw signs of PTSD and a general impression of guilt and low self-esteem. The advocate and veteran together took measure of the resources the warrior had available at the time, and set a plan of action to recover the veteran and focus on achieving his goal of returning to firefighting in five years. The advocate referred him to the VASHUD program for Housing Assistance, County VSO for claims assistance, and VA CBOC for treatment and local workforce development board for employment assistance. Additionally, he was enrolled into WWP. In the weeks to follow the warrior entered into the VASHUD program and was given assistance with housing, which led to the removal of the threat of homelessness. An associate who was looking for veterans to hire then contacted the advocate. This led to the warrior garnering employment at an increased hourly rate. Months followed and as the warrior was receiving treatment for his PTSD, receiving a diagnosis, he obtained an increase of disability rating to 60%. This compensation increase along with the increase in pay resulted in economic independence. The sustained success over the 9-month period has resulted in better mental and physical health for the warrior. In recent weeks the advocate has noticed an overall increase in positive behavior from the warrior in chance interactions within the community. He has seen the warrior out and about carrying himself with dignity and pride. The warrior has now indicated he is ready to leave the local area to return to his family and start his quest to accomplish his dream of returning to firefighting. Nine long months and several agencies working together to return a veteran to society.
Army veteran Theodore first came into the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY in May 2015 to begin working out a number of issues he was facing. In July, Theodore entered the VA Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility in Bath, NY. After his completion of the program, Theodore returned to the VOC of WNY at the beginning of August with his VASH voucher and had found an apartment, but needed assistance with the security deposit. He received assistance with his security deposit through the SSVF program and moved into his new place in mid-August. Theodore attended the Stand Down in mid-August where he met VOC of WNY board member, Harry, and VOC of WNY employee, Adam. Theodore was looking for any leads where he could get furniture for his new place. Harry donated a sofa, couch, and TV, and Adam donated various furniture items including a sleeper sofa, table, and children’s toys. Due to collaborative efforts, Theodore now has a furnished and stable home for his children to come and stay with him now that he has completed his inpatient rehabilitation.
PWP met the widow of a 100% disabled Vet at the Eglin Casualty Affairs office. Her husband was 100% unemployable disabled. His disability was determined as service related. He served in both Vietnam and the Gulf War. He was medically retired in 1998. He committed suicide in April. BLUF –Widow had been waiting on DIC since April and she felt she had been given the run around by two entities…the VA and the Casualty Affairs Office. The PWP Advocate attended a meeting with Eglin Casualty Affairs and the Veterans widow, asked some targeted questions, and the USAF Representative started making phone calls and sending e-mails. The USAF representative was able to determine that the widow’s request for DIC was approved back on 28 Aug 2015. Lack of follow-up and organizations communicating to connect the dots resulted in a lapse of the widows’ earned benefits. The PWP Advocate asked what was the next step, and ensured that it was accomplished while they were present in the office. Result –Widow will receive her DIC benefits and she also understood the SBP payback once DIC kicked in, which to her was minimal. All other benefits had been approved…a burial allotment of $2000 (service-connected death amount) and spouse/children educational benefits.
PWP was put in touch with a Vietnam Vet via a referral from an Advocate friend who stated he was living in deplorable conditions, and had health issues. Denita Krex (Advocate) met the referral at a local health and back-to-school fair. He called the individual and found that he was very hard to understand, due to him having a tracheotomy, and set a time to meet. Upon arrival, we found he was living in some of the most deplorable conditions Duane had ever seen. The Client was living in a room inside a dilapidated trailer, dating back to the 1960’s. The trailer was consumed with black mold and there were holes in his walls that allowed bugs to enter during the day and night. Additionally, the client did not have heating or air conditioning in his room. The conditions were deplorable. Duane could only figure that the client had to spend his days outside in the yard as temperatures exceed 95 degrees outside, as they elevated to over 115 degrees inside. Duane referred the client to 90Works to verify the residence as unfit for human habitation. Additionally, the client had an open tracheotomy, which is extremely dangerous with the presence of black mold. Duane coordinated with 90Works for deposit money and then we scoured the realtor lists for furnished studio apartments to get the client out of the environment. 90works and PWP found a place, talked to the manager and then brought the client to the property. 90 Works helped expedite the deposit money request as PWP made a personal appointment for the client with 90 Works, as he was hard to understand. Result –Monday we had a request for safe housing. By Friday morning, we had damage deposit money for him via 90 Works, and a new place for him to move into. Five days from having nothing, to getting him set up for success.
At our local Hire Our Heroes event on 18 June 2015, our Community Relations Liaison, Ed Garris, met Craig Hudson. A young Marine Corps combat Veteran who had recently relocated to WNY after being discharged, Craig had been unable to find meaningful work and was unemployed. Impressed with the way Craig presented himself, and the insight he demonstrated regarding his own difficulties in transitioning out of the military, Ed asked if Craig would be interested in applying for a spot on his Outreach & Engagement team. After Craig’s interview, it was clear that he was the right fit for the job. His passion made it an easy decision, and luckily Craig accepted the offer. Craig is now busy familiarizing himself with the WNY Veterans community and is looking forward to participating as part of the VOC of WNY team—and we couldn’t be happier.
Army veteran Margaret had first visited us in mid-May, and returned in June to begin addressing some of the many issues that she was currently facing. Margaret had relocated to WNY after leaving an abusive relationship in Central New York. She spent time at the VA Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility. From the beginning it was clear that Margaret was incredibly motivated to take control of her life back. While a patient at the VA, she utilized her day passes to hold down a part-time job at a clothing store that was within walking distance from the hospital. After her successful completion of the program, she began staying at a transitional housing facility in the city of Buffalo. She was looking to get back into the job market on a full-time basis and looking for a career rather than a part-time job, so we made a referral to Dress for Success, a local group that provides free outfits, make-up, and hair consultations to women seeking employment as well as additional job hunting support. Margaret quickly found employment in a call center, but her biggest barrier was proving to be transportation. Her motorcycle and her car were still in CNY, but she had an outstanding traffic ticket fine and needed her car inspection. We worked with the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court mentor group to get Margaret’s fine paid and her license reinstated at the end of June. In July, Margaret was able to move out of Cornerstone Manor into her own apartment. Margaret was a participant in the SSVF program and received temporary financial assistance to help her attain stable housing. We sent Margaret to her new home with a bag of donated cleaning supplies. Moving forward, we are sure that Margaret will become an even greater success story. She has already expressed interest in getting involved in the community through Dog Tags Niagara, and as she continues to stabilize we are sure that she will give back. Now that she is stably housed and has a benefits claim pending with the VA, Margaret is looking forward to what’s next.