Veteran Anthony Brown was homeless and living in an abandoned house when he lost both feet to frostbite. That was December 2017. Today, after two years of treatment, therapy and recovery at Coatesville VA Medical Center, Brown is ready to live in a home of his own.
“When I first came [here], I never thought I would be at this stage in my life. I utilize all the staff and everybody is my support system,” says Brown. “The VA has really helped me. I thank God for the VA.”
“It’s a team effort”
It hasn’t been just one person providing care, he says. “It’s a team effort, and a lot of us who come here, we need the help. My doctor helped me physically but being homeless for so long, I needed the emotional and the psychological support.”
Coatesville treatment teams worked with Brown to treat his glaucoma, hepatitis C, alcohol and substance abuse, depression and the mental health issues that contributed to his homelessness.
In September 2018, Brown entered the Fresh Start Program. Fresh Start is a non-VA transitional residential Grant and Per Diem Program. It is designed to help homeless Veterans achieve residential stability and increase their living skills and income. At Fresh Start, he met social work case manager Beth Fuller.
“When I came here, I had no birth certificate, no state ID, no Social Security card. I had nothing,” he recalls. “I needed things like financial statements. Beth showed me how to get myself into a position to get housing.”
Fuller has been guiding Brown through the process of connecting with VA supportive services and finding permanent housing through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing program.
“Anthony has been an extremely excellent advocate for himself,” says Fuller. “He advocated to get himself a motorized scooter. Then he went and talked to the VA vocational rehabilitation specialists of the Compensated Work Therapy program.” There, he built work experience and earned money he could use later for housing.
“I have a place to go”
Now, “I have a place to go and furniture. I have all my IDs and I’ve been networking,” says Brown. “I never signed a lease before in my life, so this is a very new experience for me.”
Brown is considering going back to school to become a peer support counselor. He wants to give back to other homeless Veterans suffering from mental and physical illnesses.
Mike Hamill is a public affairs officer for the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center.