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Army Veteran Ron Christopher who was once homeless now serves as VA Butler’s Homeless Peer Support Technician helping other homeless Veterans.

Army Veteran Ron Christopher pours his guests a cup of coffee in his kitchen. Ron who was once homeless now serves as VA Butler’s Homeless Peer Support Technician helping other homeless Veterans. (Photo Joshua Hudson)

By Amanda M. Wilczynski
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

VA Butler Healthcare’s Homeless Program has been busier than ever combating Veteran homelessness. In September, more than 20 agencies offered the homeless community support services at the first ever Veteran Stand Down event. In October, VA Butler hosted a Poverty Simulation sponsored by the Butler County Local Housing Options Team (LHOT) to expose individuals to the realities of poverty. In November, VA Butler held a Homeless Summit to promote interagency collaboration and strengthen community partnerships for eliminating homelessness among Veterans and their families.  

“The recent events like the Stand Down and Homeless Summit are just some of the ways we are working harder than ever to help Veterans improve their quality of life,” said Dan Slack, VA Butler’s Homeless Program Coordinator. “We have helped to house over 400 homeless Veterans this year and we’re committed to ending Veteran homelessness by 2015.”

One Veteran who has seen first-hand how VA is helping homeless Veterans is Army Veteran Ron Christopher. After serving in the Army, Ron suffered from alcohol abuse, depression, and homelessness. But, with the help of his brother, also a Veteran, Ron learned about the VA programs available to help him.

 “It’s not always comfortable at first. You do struggle,” said Ron “But, if you put your heart into it and trust the VA; they will find you what you need.” With help from the VA, Ron has been sober for over four years now. He comes to VA Butler Healthcare for his primary care, behavioral health care, and attends substance abuse support group meetings. Ron is also VA Butler Healthcare’s Homeless Peer Support Technician; he’s held this position since July 2011.

“I love my job. In the short time I’ve been here, we’ve helped so many Veterans – getting them off the streets and finding them a place to call home,” said Ron. “I’ve been there, they’ve been there. We learn from each other.”

Ron is also participating in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the VA’s Supported Housing (HUD-VASH) Program.  This program ultimately works to maintain permanent housing in the community for eligible homeless Veterans and their families. Housing authorities can assign voucher assistance to local housing units, and these vouchers enable homeless Veterans to access affordable housing with an array of supportive services.  

“The HUD-VASH program helped make housing affordable for me,” said Ron. “My new home is beautiful. I have a nice roomy apartment with a front and back porch and a big back yard. Life couldn’t be better.”

VA Butler’s newest means to combat homelessness is a contract housing program called Tomorrow’s HopeTomorrow’s Hope provides transitional housing (60-90 days), counseling, education, life skills, and job training to homeless Veterans. The primary mission is to provide housing and rehabilitative support through individualized case management by both the facility and VA Butler Healthcare. The vision of Tomorrow’s Hope is to grow and adapt to the needs of U.S. service men and women and give back to those who gave and continue to fight for our freedom.

Tomorrow’s Hope is a good addition to VA Butler’s Homeless Program because it completes our plan of providing a continuum of care for homeless Veterans,” said Dan. “More importantly though, the people there truly care about our Veterans.”

Veterans that are homeless or at-risk for homelessness may contact Dan Slack, the Homeless Program Coordinator at 800-362-8262, extension 2439 or call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).