(Photo by Erin Blewett)
In January 2020, Kensington Voice dedicated a full issue to stories about local veterans, this post was originally published as part of that issue. In February, Generocity republished two other pieces from that issue (a checklist of services for veterans and a story about the Veterans Coffee Club at Impact Services’ Hancock Manor that helps veterans deal with trauma and ease loneliness). The situation of the veterans whose voices are amplified here may have changed significantly since the COVID-19 crisis.
Kensington Voice editors Erin Blewett, Henry Savage, and Zari Tarazona talked with veterans living in Impact Services’ Hancock Manor, a veterans housing facility also known as 174, about what kinds of improvements need to be made to veterans’ services.
The veterans living at the facility receive benefits and services from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), service providers, and others.
Here’s what veterans Richard Brown, William Clack, Jack Purdy, John Tomys, and Michele Walker had to say.
Things become a problem when you decide that there is one. Some people don’t feel comfortable or think they don’t have to do the footwork for themselves. Then there will be a problem.
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I think you have to own what you have to do. Own the fact that you have to go to certain people for help and talk with them.
If I think you’re going to do everything for me, and nothing gets done? Of course, I’m going to complain. Give people the tools they need, and let the people run with the tools.
I feel as though the veterans need to be informed of all the changes going on that concern them and the environment they live in. For some reason, we don’t have community meetings as much as we used to, either.
We’re not being informed, and a lot of us are in the dark. We need to know more about these things.
We need to be more informed about these new changes that’s going on.
Service: Desert Storm
I work for Aramark down at Citizens Bank Park. I’m kind of like a seasonal worker, but it’s just not enough money to sustain me. Right now, I have a problem with transportation, getting back and forth to my appointments on time at the VA. It’s a pain. Just to get to the VA and back, it’s $5. If you have to go anywhere in between, you get messed up.
I’m working to get more of my benefits right now, too. I had a little situation in the Marine Corps, so that’s why I’m looking to get my benefits fixed. I have VA and HUD housing, but the VA is not willing to help us with some other things because we have a job and housing. And I have a newborn, so I’m really, really struggling to get food and everything.
With the pennies we make, it’s still not enough.
My experience around the Kensington area has basically been Impact Services and the Perimeter, which is a multiservice center just a little bit further down the street [from the VMC]. It’s not in the Kensington area. It’s a good organization.
Otherwise, it seems like our government is cutting back and back and back as usual. It took away a lot of things for veterans that are not 100% disabled, like eyeglasses and teeth and stuff like that. But there’s been a lot of organizations that picked up what the VA doesn’t cover around here.
Kensington’s good. It’s a convenient area. Everything’s close. You just gotta get used to it.
Service: U.S. Department of Labor Special Examiner, National Office
I feel that the Kensington business community needs to work on welcoming the veteran community. Forget race; forget color. Let’s just have a community that tries to get closer to veterans. Maybe post signs out on veteran holidays saying, “Hey veterans — come in.” They’ll notice that the veteran community looks a little bit like everyone.
You have to make it clear to business owners that there is a veteran community and it consists of all kinds of people. Delivery services like Amazon are a blessing for us veterans because we get great deals and don’t have to leave when we’re not feeling well, but we still like to get out and we like to go to the businesses here in the neighborhood.-30-
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