Once homeless, White House VA Hotline employee now helps others find stable housing


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Veterans who need help are sometimes hesitant to reach out to VA because they assume the counselors and case managers don’t understand what Veterans are going through. Donald Wolfer was no different. After deploying to Iraq with the Army in 2008, he began to notice changes in himself, but he chose not to go to VA, or any other organizations, for help. Because he didn’t seek treatment for his health issues, Wolfer lost everything he held dear, including his home.

He was unable to hold down a job or maintain his relationship with his wife and kids, and after being evicted, he ended up living in a tent on the streets in West Virginia. Wolfer was getting by with meals from food banks in the area. A few months later, while standing in line for the Telamon food pantry in Martinsburg, Wolfer’s life changed. As he took out his wallet, a food bank staffer noticed his old military ID and asked him whether he wanted to speak with Telamon’s Veteran representative, LaDonna Weller. Wolfer said yes.

Weller told Wolfer about VA’s programs for homeless Veterans, and they talked about how the programs could help him. She put Wolfer in touch with a case manager, Roberta Wilson, through the Domiciliary Care Program at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center in West Virginia. He soon began receiving assistance to get back on his feet, including mental health help.

In addition to treatment for his health issues, Wolfer needed a way to support himself. So, the VAMC’s community employment coordinator, Anna Stead, helped him create a resume and search for jobs. She also worked with him to develop interview skills, which resulted in his landing a position at the White House VA Hotline in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

The White House VA Hotline was created in 2017 as part of President Trump’s initiative to help Veterans take advantage of the VA services they have earned. Wolfer is now part of a group that makes up 90 percent of the hotline’s staff—Veterans and members of military families. His job as a tier 1 call agent allows him to be on the front line as a champion for Veterans who are in the same situation he overcame with help from VA.

Today, Wolfer and his wife are reunited and living as a family in their own house, which is close to his job. In December, they had another child. Things are looking up for Wolfer and his family because he got the help he needed. He and his wife are saving money to furnish and decorate their new home so that it reflects the comfort, cheer and optimism they both feel about their lives and their family’s future.

“Some people believe that the homeless program does everything for you,” Wolfer said. “[But] when they get a homeless Veteran, they give you all of the resources for you to help yourself. You have to be willing to help yourself and get on your own feet.”

For Veterans in urgent need of these and more services, contact the 24/7 White House VA Hotline at 1-855-948-2311. And if you or someone you know is a Veteran who is at risk of becoming homeless or is already homeless, please contact your local VA homeless programs coordinator. You may be eligible for programs that can assist you.


IMAGE: Holly HirshelHolly Hirsel, a licensed social worker, is employed with VA’s Homeless Programs Office where she works with the community engagement team to develop and maintain partnerships with public and private entities to advance the availability of resources to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. She has a master’s degree in social work from Case Western Reserve Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and an undergraduate degree from Cleveland State University, majoring in both psychology and social work.

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Comments

  1. Karen Hughes    

    I’ve contacted housing at the ralph johnson va for several years now. THEY ALWAYS TELL ME THEY CAN’T HELP, NO MONEY, & GO TO A SHELTER!

  2. shipdog7    

    We have money for everything else in this country. It just seems Veterans are low on the list of budgets everywhere. When North Korea and the US decide to become friends….we will pour billions into their country for their friendship. That is what we do best. Buy friendship. Mr Trump has stated NK will be rich. Yeah…with our tax dollars. I was homeless at one time. There was nobody to reach out to. And how could I? I had no phone. I had no computer. I had no address. Somewhere along the way of fighting for our country our wires got crossed. It didn’t happen to everyone. Some are able to burrow through all of it and stand upright. Some of us fell. Things are getting better with VA. But there is a long ways to go. I am 74 years of age and so glad to be here. God bless all of my comrades. And especially this Memorial Day in 2018 when some of them weren’t able to be here and enjoy family and friends.

  3. Paul Maney    

    I always get the run around. Here 9 years after the first time I’ve asked for help I’m still on the street. They usually don’t respond but when they do it’s always false hopes given. I wish the VA would just admit that they don’t care and they don’t help Veterans.

  4. Jay Pressley    

    For those considering or currently participating in the VA GPD program, learn from my mistakes…

    I am currently in the process for the third time, having utilized it twice before, for roughly three months each, until I found a job the two previous times I was in the program.

    Veterans are only allowed a maximum of three times to use the program, for a maximum of two years, each. That means up to six years of housing assistance total – if you’re smart.

    As I said, I used the program twice before for three months each, which cut me out of 3.5 years of housing assistance. Now, I’m waiting out my disability claim and will be stuck without housing for a year because I am out of time on my third and final time in the program in August.

    Now that I need the time the most, I no longer have it because I tried to keep working even though I was not fit to work and that lost time is forfeited.

    If you have to use the GPD program, don’t leave it one single day before you have to, because once it’s done, it’s done.

  5. Terry Wayne Patrick Bucklker    

    I want to help the homless vets I need suggestions on where to start I want to house cloth and feed them. (redacted) today I am able to help. My entire family were in wars I named after my uncle who was shot in chest saving pows in Veitnam

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