Woonsocket Community Club sponsors local project for homeless veterans

What do you give the person who has nothing but the clothes on his back? Well, everything, but the basic needs of food and shelter are first on the list for Crystal (Olinger) Wilkinson, former Woonsocket native and a social worker with the Homeless Vets program through the Sioux Falls Veteran’s Medical Center.
Wilkinson serves 139 veterans and case manages them from a state of homelessness to finding a job in a process that can take months and years. The veterans she works with are Vietnam, Korean, Iraq and Afghanistan servicemen, who came home changed after serving our country, and have found that they don’t fit back into the lives they left with families, friends and jobs. Mental and physical health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder are common stories for these veterans, and being homeless many times goes along with those issues.
To become a client of the Homeless Veterans program, the vet must live in a shelter or on the streets. The federal government supports and funds the program, called HUD-VASH, through the Veterans Administration. Crystal finds homes, usually apartments, through the Housing First program for the veterans, and then works on the next steps of finding jobs and helping the veteran become self-sufficient.  After the veteran has succeeded in maintaining a home and job, he is expected to pay 30 percent of whatever income he makes toward rent.
Getting an apartment ready to occupy requires a lot of support and contributions from outside sources. Goodwill partners with Homeless Vets to provide vouchers to help meet the needs of setting up housekeeping; however, support and contributions from the public are also required to get the vets into a livable situation.
The Woonsocket Community Club has made the decision to assist the homeless veterans and Wilkinson in their need for items to furnish apartments.
Throughout December and January, they will be collecting gently used furniture, such as beds, couches, chairs, loveseats, end tables, kitchen or dining tables and chairs, cleaning supplies, dishes, silverware, pots and pans, sheets, blankets, towels, etc., anything needed to set up housekeeping or that could be used in an apartment.
Monetary donations are also accepted. Checks can be made out to South Dakota Homeless Vets.
Wilkinson shared that these homeless vets like to keep their lives simple and don’t require a lot of material things to get along. She knows each of them personally and distributes the items where they are most needed, and the vets  appreciate even the smallest thing very much.
If anyone in the area has donations, call Gay Swenson (796-4272) or any Community Club members and they will pick them up. The items will be stored until they are delivered to Sioux Falls. If this effort is successful, the club may decide to make this an ongoing project.
Todd Brueske has generously donated the use of one of his storage units in Woonsocket to the Club for collection of items.

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