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Helping homeless veterans, no matter how many there are

KINGMAN - Dawn-Marie Hayden takes special pride in being able to help those who don't always want to help themselves.

Hayden, a case manager for Veterans Resource Centers of America, finds immediate and long-term housing for military veterans who are facing eviction or are currently homeless. Hayden, who joined the organization in November, said her clients aren't always grateful and sometimes don't even want her help.

In fact, she noted, many of those she assists suffer from a myriad of issues that keep them wandering down the road, including alcohol and drug abuse, gambling addiction, mental health problems and joblessness. Hayden said those issues must be dealt with to move those veterans into housing and keep them there long-term.

"It just makes good sense to do this," said Hayden. "These homeless veterans are human beings. They're men and women who served our country and gave us the freedoms we have today. But freedom isn't free. Those in the military know to never leave anyone behind, but we as a society don't follow that rule."

Hayden discussed the problems associated with homeless veterans during a presentation Wednesday at the James L. Stanfield Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10386. Her organization is part of Veterans Resource Centers of America, a 40-year-old nonprofit agency partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs on homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing for veterans. VRCOA has 13 sites in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Through a Supportive Services for Veterans and Families grant of $2 million, the agency provides case management, helping veterans meet their goals and find and keep housing. It also offers financial assistance in securing housing, personal financial planning, and information and referrals to other organizations that work with veterans.

Veterans Resource Centers of America opened in Bullhead City on Oct. 1, and its outreach into Kingman began soon after. Hayden said referrals from Kingman have steadily increased, and while there is no office here, she spends each Wednesday in the city, handling about 10 new intakes and follow-ups, and checking the areas where homeless veterans congregate. Hayden said Kingman has more open areas of land than Bullhead City for camping.

Hayden remembers one of her first Kingman clients, a 60-year-old veteran who had been homeless for five years and was living off his Social Security payment of $900 a month. He found a temporary home in a dilapidated trailer that had no electricity or water. Hayden said she helped him locate better housing, and when she visited him later, he gave her a tour of his tiny residence, pointing out a bed, a refrigerator that kept his food cold and a small television set.

"He was just pleased as punch with what he had," said Hayden. "I talk to him often and he is so happy because his house is warm and safe. And I'm so pleased to see that smile on his face. I get paid to do this job, and his reaction is the fringe benefit. It's priceless, and no one can take that away."


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