Because of numerous risk factors at the same time:
- Un-treated injuries, un-managed disease, weakened immune system
- Service-related chemical exposure, Agent Orange, etc.
- High rates of tobacco and alcohol use, drug use
- No healthcare, non-participation in healthcare
- Poor nutrition, high rates of Diabetes, living in un-healthy conditions
- In contact with hundreds of people “pan-handling” for change at public places
- Cannot afford or access sanitizer, masks, gloves
- Crowded “homeless shelters” are COVID breeding grounds
When the pandemic hit, many social service organizations reduced services or just closed their doors. Because homeless veterans were in imminent danger of getting the virus and spreading it to others, we stayed open and dramatically increased our services.
- GCVF found itself on the front lines of the battle, and instantly became an essential service.
- We have rescued 83 veterans from homelessness during the first 12 months of COVID, getting them into emergency “virus-safe” motel shelter in partnership with the County and United Way.
- When hand sanitizer disappeared from store shelves, we manufactured 21 gallons of medical grade hand sanitizer, right here in our office.
- We distributed over 1,000 small bottles of sanitizer to homeless veterans, with masks and gloves. Extra sanitizer was delivered to other non-profit organizations on the front lines.
Several of our previous veteran service programs and components required close personal contact, and were suspended due to orders from local and state government. These components will resume in the near future, once social distancing restrictions have been removed.
Veterans We Have Rescued from COVID-19
John “JT” Taylor is a U.S. Air Force veteran (1970 – 72).
JT has dealt with multiple chronic health conditions since suffering a lung disease while living in barracks containing asbestos. That combination, along with additional errors in medical diagnoses and treatment, eventually led to kidney failure and constant pain. All of this makes JT more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
Gold Coast Veterans Foundation partnered with United Way of Ventura County to get JT placed in a hotel while he is applying for permanent housing.
JT is also assisting MVO with helping fellow homeless veterans find better living conditions.
Update: JT is now permanently housed! Please read this article for more on JT’s story.
Brian and Brandy – Brian is a U.S. Army veteran (2007-09).
Brian is unable to work because he serves as Brandy’s full-time caregiver. She has frequent seizures as a result of brain damage from being hit by a drunk driver.
They were living in a vehicle with their dog Scrappy. However, their car is disabled, leaving Brandy without reliable transportation to medical appointments, and Brian needing a ride to get her medications. MVO facilitated placing them into a state-funded hotel room as part of COVID-19 prevention.
Update: Brian and Brandy are now permanently housed! Please check out their success story on our “Veteran Wish List” page.
Donovan Thomas is a U.S. Army Reserve veteran (1983-88).
Donovan was recently laid off from his job at a car wash due to the business being deemed “non-essential” according to COVID-19 guidelines.
Gold Coast Veterans Foundation partnered with United Way of Ventura County to get him off the streets and place him in a hotel for the months of April and May.
Marquise Holloway is a recently discharged U.S. Army veteran (2017-20).
He has a good job at Lowe’s, but alimony and child support left him to live in his car. MVO was able to place him in a state-funded motel room during the COVID-19 prevention effort, as well as provide gas money to get to and from work until he gets paid.
Marquise is smiling because he has a safe, clean place to sleep and continue rebuilding his life.
Ben Preston is a Seabee veteran, with deployments to Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia, Japan, and a multinational rescue mission in Kenya when a building collapsed. He earned a Seabee Combat Warfare Designation, Good Conduct Medal, Expert Marksman Ribbon, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, and Navy “Battle E” Ribbon.
After the Navy, Ben was in and out of jail for alcohol abuse and being drunk in public. Our MVO Director worked intensively with Ben to identify and engage in the resources and activities that got his life back on track. He is now 4 months sober and in rehab. Ben is now seeking full time employment.
Ben credits GCVF as being a big part in his success: “Gold Coast Veterans Foundation bridged an invisible gap that I and other veterans can’t locate, let alone get out of. I hate saying it, but I really just needed to accept f***ing up, change, and move on. In other words it helped me find the tools I didn’t even know I needed, like cognitive behavioral therapy or a wellness recovery action plan… because of the courage and commitment you had to put boots on the ground and get me here. Sobriety is paramount to my being! I just needed to be reminded why, and thank you seriously for your part in finding myself.”
Michael and Ana Garcia – Michael did two combat tours in Iraq. Ana served in Kuwait.
Ana is disabled as a result of her service, but VA is delaying her claim. During her pregnancy, she was barely speaking. Michael has a 10% disability rating (for Tinnitus), but the VA denied his claim for PTSD. GCVF is working to help Michael see a Psychiatrist to substantiate his PTSD claim.
Michael had part-time carpentry work, but this actually disqualified them for housing assistance. They were also disqualified because of incomplete certification for their service dog, Wishbone.
This veteran couple and their service dog have been living in a vehicle for two years – first in a car, and now in a small camper with no utility hookups.
With this couple being at high risk for COVID-19, the MVO program was finally able to place them into one of the state-funded motel rooms, where they will have safe housing.
Update: Our MVO team was finally able to get Ana, Michael, and their baby girl qualified for long-term subsidized housing!