Peer Mentoring with Veterans

1160100_92218765I started with Aspire Indiana in January of 2014 as the Peer Mentor for the SSVF (Supportive Services for Veterans and Families) program. I cover Madison, Hamilton, Boone, northern Marion, Wayne and Rush Counties.

I have many responsibilities such as reaching out to the Veteran and Veteran families to maintain engagement with them – whether it’s calling them, seeing them in person, or emailing them.

I do a lot of outreach to Veterans including going to a monthly meeting, laundromats, liquor stores, bars, food pantries, homeless shelters, county Veterans Service offices, clothing banks, trustee’s offices, libraries, convenience stores, grocery stores, and hospitals to provide information regarding the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. You really have to think like a person that may be homeless and doesn’t want to go to a shelter!

I advocate for the Veteran and their family – whether it’s speaking to landlords and employers about Veterans and their families, or getting a warrant vacated because a Veteran just obtained employment. If that Veteran goes to jail, they would lose the employment.

Sometimes it’s just setting the record straight that not all Veterans have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and or a Traumatic Brain Injury. There are people who think that because some Veterans have a mental illness and are homeless, it’s their fault. I have been able to get hospitals, trustee offices, and schools to start asking if the person is a Veteran or if they have anyone in the family who is a Veteran.

All of the staff in SSVF serve as role models to Veterans. There are a lot of people not only counting on us, but looking up to us as well. We have to be able to help them when problems arise unexpectedly, or just be there to listen to them when they need someone. A lot of times, it simply takes someone to listen to another person in order for that person to figure out a solution to their problem.

983800_19499513There are a lot of Veterans that have issues that need to be handled delicately, respectfully, and tactfully – whether it’s gaining a Veteran’s trust, helping the Veteran go to places where they would never go by themselves, or just to be there for them when they need you to be. Sometimes just going to the Veterans Administration with the Veteran is great therapy for them. Some of them have issues being around a lot of people, and it helps if a staff member is there because the Verteran has someone they know and can trust.

I help the Case Managers in any way that I can – from picking up a document from a client, handling a TFA request, exiting a client, or dropping a document off to a client. I try to do as much as I can for the Case Managers as their jobs are tough enough as it is. I think it’s very important for all of us to know what each person’s job is so in case one of us can’t be there, then another staff member can step in at a moment’s notice and do what needs to be done.

We have to be sensitive to the client’s information and make sure that it’s protected. Anything a client speaks to us about is held in the utmost confidentiality.

I’ve worked with Veterans for several years and have accomplished many things that are beneficial for Veterans and their families. I’ve served with the Madison County Veterans Treatment Court, helped to get Vet-to-Vet started in Anderson, and helped start the Joining Community Forces Meetings in Hamilton and Boone Counties.

There is only one reason a Veteran should be homeless, and that is because they choose to be, not because they were put in this position due to an illness, a disease, or lost employment.

These Veterans served our country. They were not told to, they signed up on their own. They kept us safe while we slept at night. They did not do it for the pay or for the incentives. They did this because of  honor and respect. Most Veterans will tell you that it was an honor to serve and protect this great nation. No matter the injuries, the fights, the long nights, and the long days, each would do it again. They took care of us and now it’s our turn to take care of them!

712836_23660997If you see a Soldier or a Veteran, make sure that you thank them!

If you see a Veteran that may be homeless, make sure that you refer them to the SSVF program. It’s our responsibility to make sure that these Veterans are taken care of. They took care of us so it’s our turn to help them!

For more information about Supportive Services for Veteran Families, visit:https://www.facebook.com/InteCareSSVF.

About the author: Emily Quillen is a Peer Mentor with Aspire Indiana’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program. While the beliefs and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Ms. Quillen, you can learn more about Aspire Indiana athttps://www.facebook.com/AspireIndiana.

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