Once-homeless Veteran no longer adrift thanks to VA community life raft



For Maine Veteran Bill Marinelli, becoming homeless at age 70 was like finding himself floating aimlessly down a river.

“You see people on the banks,” he explains, “but you’re not a part of them.”

He didn’t know it at the time, but a friend, community partners and our staff from the Veterans Affairs (VA) Maine Health Care System would soon form a life raft, rescuing Marinelli from the rolling waters of homelessness and shoring him up with health care, transitional housing and a path to stability.

Finding Himself Adrift

We’ve heard Marinelli’s all-too-familiar story before: He lived for years on a property that eventually sold. Evicted from his home, he moved into his car, a “temporary” situation that lasted more than two years.

As an aging Veteran in an unstable housing situation, Marinelli’s unaddressed health issues worsened. In his eighth decade of life, he was homeless, partially blind from cataracts, and living with high blood pressure and cholesterol. Without clear vision, he could no longer write the lyrics for songs to play on his guitar and beloved keyboard.

Despair turned to danger when his car was forced off the road and no longer running. With nowhere left to go, Marinelli’s friend advised him to get help from the community and VA.

“Veterans,” his friend reminded him, “do not live in their cars.”

Seeing the Future More Clearly

From there, Bill let the caring members of his community into his life.

He first stop was the York County Homeless Shelter. “When I realized that I wasn’t going to spend another night in the car,” he says, “I just broke down like a baby. But it was like tears of joy.”

A Volunteers of America (VOA) outreach worker met Marinelli at the shelter and introduced him to me. As the grant and per diem liaison with the VA Maine Health Care System, I helped Bill enroll in VA health care and expedited approval to pay for eyesight-restoring cataract surgery and other needed health services. I oversee his ongoing VA and community services at his new home, the Arthur B. Huot House, a VA-funded VOA program that provides 10 transitional efficiency units for homeless Veterans in Maine.

Thanks to VA, the help of community partners and the timely advice of a friend, Marinelli can now see the outlines of the leaves on the trees, the petals of the flowers and the lyrics to his songs.

He also sees that he was wrong in thinking that there was little hope for Veterans like him.

“I was misled,” he says of VA. “I would urge any Veteran who’s on the street, who’s living in their car, to give this a chance, because it’s an opportunity you don’t understand until you’ve actually experienced it.”

Get More Information

  • Visit VA’s website to learn about programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
  • Refer Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless to their local VA Medical Center, where VA staff are ready to assist, or urge them to call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).

 


Susan L Whittington headshotAbout the author: Susan L. Whittington is Grant and Per Diem liaison with the VA Maine Health Care System. She has been a VA Maine social worker since 2008 and, in 2014, was recognized as VA Maine Social Worker of the Year.

 

 

 

 

Sean_C_WilliamsAbout the filmmaker: Sean C. Williams is Visual Conferencing Assistant with the VA Maine Health Care System and has been with VA since April of 2016.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Jerry Smith    

    Hello my name is Jerry Smith i am a homeless veteran i am corrently living in San Rafael Ca. In Marin County ,Ca ihave been trying to get my Va.benefits since march they told me that it will take 3 to 6 months for me to recieve my full benefits but i can wait on recieving my full benefits what i need right now is my dd214 to help get me into veterans housing. I have until June 30th to get out of my current situation of living which is a bad one. I am moving into a homeless shelter but it is really hard to live in a shelter they snore all night and keep you up all night.But the staff is really nice and do what they can to help you out. If there are any veterans who have been through the same thing and got out of the situation i would to hear your advice on hoe you did it. You can reach me by e-mail which is jsmith010454@gmail.com thank you for your patience.
    Yours Truly,
    Jerry Smith

  2. Jerry Smith    

    I am a Vietnam veteran recently i appyled for my VA benefits they told me it would take three to six months and they told me they have my service records right in front of them. But i was living in a bad situation and they are about to make me homeless as of June 30th 2016. I am going to live in a homeless shelter so i won’t be living on the streets. But the shelter is a hard place to live people snore and keep you up all night. But staff is really nice and frindly and do what they can to help me. But i desperly need my dd214 to get into veterans housing, i know that i got 3 more months to go but they had it right in front of them and send it my Va worker in Marin County Ca. Please if any other veteran has been through the same thing please give me some advice on my e-mail jsmith010454@gmail.com thank you for your patience.
    Your Truly,
    Jerry Smith

  3. allan heuton    

    Kind of funny to read this…..The VA told me just this past year……your not homeless… you have a car!!!!

  4. Joseph Tavares    

    I have given the VA every opportunity to display their improvements but they are not there yet. I received my letter from the VA notifying me that it would be 27 months before it could respond to my medical appeal. It will be three years this November. No word yet. It will not become embarrassing and they will, I suspect, deny my claim to save face. I can sense it already.

    1. Rodney Boyd    

      Hey bruh, you are the exception, the VA is full of red tape and beaucricy. The number of vets still fighting for well deserved benefits is enormous, in addition to Vets dying because of the failed health care system. I am sorry that you are misinformed…..stay tuned for more breaking news. Desert storm, Afghanistan, and Iraqi Freedom Veteran.

  5. thomas gomez sr    

    HEY FOX NEWS! WHY DONT YOU TELL THIS STORY!! WHY DONT YOU EVER TELL OF THE GOOD THINGS THE VA DOES! OUR VA CARES ABOUT US! AND IF YOU DONT WANT THE REST OF AMERICA TO KNOW THAT! YOUR WRONG! HEY FOX NEWS! THE VA IS NOT PERFECT!! MISTAKES ARE MADE!! BUT NOT ON PURPOSE! AS LONG AS WE THE VETS KNOW THEY TRULY CARE ABOUT US. WHAT YOU SAY DOESN’T MATTER! THE VA IS TRYING TO MAKE THINGS BETTER EVERY DAY AND WE SEE IT!SO FOR ONCE FOX NEWS WHY DONT YOU PULL A STORY LIKE THIS AND SHOW AMERICA. OUR GOVERNMENT HAS A HEART ! FOR VETERANS! WHY DONT YOU ONCE SHOW ALL THE GOOD THE VA IS TRYING TO DO FOR US VETS? YOU WONT DO THAT I KNOW! THANK YOU VA! THANK YOU FOR MAKING US THE BEST TREATED VETERANS IN THE WORLD !!!

  6. Warren Strum    

    Re: AMERICAN MILITARY. I am a combat Vietnam Veteran, one of thousands of highly skilled American warriors who returned to receive a full blown rejection from the American people. The hippy community had the heart and the ear of America. We Veterans, on the other hand, paid for our service with a silent acceptance of the derogatory titles we shared; a heavy load for young spirited soldiers to endure. My peer group was disproportionately relegated to populate prisons and graveyards at an age when hope, opportunity and encouragement were channeled to others.
    As such, we Vietnam Veterans deserve the opportunity to replace active military combat zone soldiers. Many current war zone soldiers have young wives and children at home. The soldiers themselves are young. We see too many war struck young troops returning with permanent injuries and too many American families are suffering the loss of their cherished family members. Granted, the reception given to these current combat warriors is appropriate and just. However, the pains suffered are real and endure throughout the course of life.
    The time has come to remove the military re-enlistment age restriction for all Vietnam Veterans. Let the highly experienced older soldiers fight in place of our valuable youth. Give these young troops and their families a future. And give us a chance to become honorable in the eyes of our country. America owes us that opportunity to earn a welcome home.
    Thank you for your time and consideration.
    Warren S. Helicopter Crew member – 101st Airborne – Vietnam.

  7. thomas humphries    

    You could help us get benefits we deserve. Ive been waiting going on 3 yrs an they say there just working on 2012. That puts me hoping for 2018. Thats y yrs sence i filled. That kinda sucjs dont you think

Comments are closed.