Helping Homeless Veterans in Shiawassee County:
Yes, There are Homeless Vets Here
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor

Homelessness in Shiawassee County, as it is anywhere, is not restricted by age, race, sex, background, or any overt identifiers. One particular faction of the local homeless population is homeless veterans, and though it is well into the warmer months of the year, homeless veterans: particularly single men, are challenged to find accommodations or assistance. One case, which was brought to the forefront during the summer of 2017 due to the help of volunteers Samantha Ardelean and Shelly Ochodnicky, involves Bobby. Bobby, who served in the Army from 1977 to 1980, was uncertain how to go about claiming his benefits.
Bobby was found living by the Shiawassee River in Curwood Castle Park, along with other homeless people, during a critically hot period last summer by Ardelean, who notified Ochodnicky, who then helped him access his DD 214 (release from active duty papers). From there, Shiawassee County Veterans Affairs and Services assisted him, which eventually allowed him to connect with other VA help and due to the compassion of one particular area landlord, he discovered he was eligible to find housing here in Owosso.
Bobby is an Owosso native, having primarily grown up in the Lincoln Elementary School area on Michigan Avenue, though he did spend time in foster care, as well. He joined the military in 1977 because he felt “there was nothing else to do,” though he knew he wanted to accomplish something. The military was his answer. As for his service, Bobby shared that, “It was alright. I got use to taking orders. I learned to work very hard.”
After his service, Bobby came back to Owosso and has worked a number of jobs over the years. Yet, when times became difficult, it did not occur to him to “claim my benefits.” For the previous six years, Bobby has mostly been homeless and regarding his lack of shelter, he stated, “I got cold. I got wet. I moved around a lot. People looked down on me and sometimes gave me dirty looks.”
Today, one year after being found along the river, Bobby has a home and is even working odd jobs for his landlord, whom he references as “a really good guy. I have my own place and I can go there when I want. I plan on keeping it.”

How You Can Help
submitted by Mike Reeve,
Director of the Shiawassee County Veterans Affairs and Services

The Department of Housing and Urban Development released an estimate that calculates on any given night there will be 47,725 veterans who are homeless within the U.S. Michigan is reporting there are 1,122 homeless veterans within the state. The true extent of homelessness among veterans cannot be calculated with complete accuracy because some of these individuals fall through the cracks or fail to take advantage of certain safety net programs.
Many people mistakenly believe that since there is a VA and other government agencies that are tasked with helping homeless veterans, that there is no pressing need to do more, but this is completely false. American veterans deserve to be made whole, and to have a place to call home that is their own. As Americans, we owe them this, as well as our gratitude for everything that they have risked or lost while in military service.
Some possible ideas on how you can help the homeless veteran population in your area include:
• Take a look around your own local community and see if there is a need for helping homeless veterans. The odds are if you live in a city or urban area there are veterans who need help finding stable housing and other resources.
• Contact homeless and veteran organizations in your area to see what you can do. Volunteer to help in any way that you can, whether that is filling out paperwork or trying to locate homeless veterans who need assistance
and shelter.
• Contact your politicians and elected officials to bring attention to the need for helping homeless veterans. When voters reach out to those in elected positions, changes in the current laws or veterans programs are possible so that veterans receive additional assistance and have an easier time accessing the programs designed to help them once their military service
is finished.
• Contact any agencies and coalitions in your area that work with the homeless. Inquire about helping homeless veterans; you may be surprised at how great the need is in your area. The Shiawassee County Veteran Affairs Department has Veteran Service Officers who are knowledgeable about the programs available, the rules for application and can be reached by calling (989) 743-2231. You can stop by and pay them a visit at 201 N. Shiawassee St., Corunna.
If you are a homeless veteran and in need, please pick up the phone and dial the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at
(877) 424-3838.
Give something back by helping homeless veterans. After everything that they have done to keep us safe and protect our country, they deserve our support now more than ever.

Helping Homeless Veterans in Shiawassee County: Yes, There are Homeless Vets Here was last modified: June 25th, 2018 by Karen Elford