Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Homelessness II: Veteran Homelessness From East to West Coast

Guest post submitted by Gonzalo Duran

Employment, education and housing are universal issues. Veterans fall into a category just like everyone else. Where we differ is that we have many benefits and organizations dedicated to providing assistance on every possible issue imaginable. The complication that comes into place lies within the cracks between the rules and regulations. Those rules are simple to fix and easy to resolve. The obstacle we face is the confusion caused by the discontinuity of those in power and those who simply don’t want to get their hands dirty. My story has been told and it was a relatively a short period of agony; I needed help and was able to persevere through it. Unfortunately this caused me to become unfamiliar of the huge issue regarding the Veteran population. Here’s a synopsis of my story and other Veterans across the nation.

Gonzalo Duran, Bronx NY – I was discharged from the Marines in November of 2011. I was going through many issues such as divorce, legal, and other complications. With these dilemmas going on, I decided to focus on school and build my future from there. Unfortunately, entrance into school would not start until January. The worst part is that I wouldn’t see any monetary funds or benefits until February. My four-month struggle is why Devil Dog USA Inc. exists and until things change, I will continue to keep watch.

Yegor Zubarev, Bronx NY – Was attending a university and when summer came, his problems began. Yegor was not approved for summer housing on campus. Not being a local and being kicked off of school grounds, he left as advised and began his ordeal of homelessness. Not quite homeless because he had Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) “coming in” and not qualifying for chronic homelessness because he lacked one year of supervised homelessness. Yegor jumped into the shelter system, which he was picked out as a Veteran and then, began over six months of supervised homelessness. When I found out about his situation, I basically I knocked on a few doors, told them he was a student from Fordham University, had the money and was a Veteran. The deal was sealed within a day. After that, I was helping him move his garbage bags full of clothes into his new apartment. This took about a weekend.

Reginald Johnson, White Plains NY – Getting out of the military, Reginald decided to move back home so he could attend Fordham University. Shortly after his family relocated to a different state. The struggle to find an apartment using the GI Bill was so difficult he had to resort to alternative means. Forced against the wall he had a family member “lease” his apartment for him while he paid the rent.

David Smith, Charleston WV & Morgantown WV – While on terminal leave, he did his best to secure an apartment, but as the dead line came closer and he was unable to do so, he moved in with his family as a backup. Towards the last few days left on his forty-five days plus of terminal leave, he finally found a place to accept his BAH just before it ended. He fears that if he didn’t find that last broker, he could have ended up homeless.

Adrian Elias, Bronx NY – As a Fordham University student he was excited about attending school and found someone to move in with because the BAH issues made it too difficult for him to find his own place. Unfortunately, the VA experienced a delay in 2012, causing him to ask his roommate for leeway regarding rent because he went months without being paid his BAH. As tension grew, eventually Adrian left his shared apartment and moved back home. This was his only solution because no one would take his BAH money.

Geoffrey Lance Jenkins, Boston MA & Suffolk County NY – Has been in the Army,Navy and lastly Army Reserve. Jenkins had a problem with his family, which caused him to move out. Geoffrey applied to use the GI Bill but his application had been pending for several months. Fortunately, a friend who worked in a local housing program moved his application forward into a Veteran Affairs approved housing facility. Geoffrey will qualify for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD VASH) program within the next few months.

Carlos Bedoya, Bronx NY – After getting out, Carlos couldn’t find a place to take his BAH in New York and stayed with family. When he got his BA, he moved to another state and fortunately his partner’s job provides housing.

Luis Mercado, Bronx NY – Was excited after the military and loved the idea of going back to school full time at Fordham University. Unfortunately no one would take his BAH because it wasn’t a credible source of income. He couldn’t find employment to adequately support him, so he decided to move back home and continue with his education.

Derrick L. Randles, Knoxville TN – Didn’t have any problems with finding housing. He was able to find realtors who were very patriotic in TN. On a six-month lease he paid three months in advance plus security; a total of $3,000 upfront to move in.

Samuel Hernandez, New London CT & San Diego CA – Had issues with seeking housing in CT and CA. When in SD, he had to fake documents by providing fake employers and supervisors; this was the result of repeated denials of applications for not having a work history while seeking higher education using the GI Bill. When in CT he had the same problem, but fortunately after a few denials he just happen to meet a familymember of a fellow Veteran we both served with who was a landlord. They helped him with the housing process with no questions asked.

Glomani Bravo-Lopez, Brooklyn & Manhattan NY – Used the GI Bill to get his realtor’s license and was fortunate to have family to avoid the problem of being denied housing. Since becoming a realtor, for the past two years, he has regrettably been able to help only one Veteran. The guidelines established by his job cause him to deny fellow Veterans housing opportunities. He needs work stubs, tax returns, and work history. The one Veteran he helped was outside his normal area of locations and the landlord was more receptive in listening. Glomani is dedicated to helping Veterans and is very active with giving Veterans those requirements to allow the process to be easier. He also believes that Congress needs to intervene and ratify this issue immediately

Julio Smith, Bronx NY – A New York City realtor tells me that he needs “requirements” to rent to Veterans. Unfortunately the Veterans who only have the GI Bill must be verified with the landlords first. From his experience, he hasn’t had any luck and is now more inclined to not work with Veterans. Julio feels that congress needs to pass laws to make the process easier and feels discourages about the situation.

Edson Arzu, Bronx NY – Shares a similar story as myself. He had a hard transition upon his discharge from service in getting approval on housing with the GI Bill. When he over came this situation, he began crusading for Veterans and started his own non-profit. Edson is the CEO of that non-profit and is in his third year of medical school. He is currently using a different VA program to attend school.

Now you have a wide range of scenarios and examples to understand the dilemma. I hope to bring awareness to this issue, because every individual, politician, organization, agency and the nation are obligated in helping our Veterans. No matter what your opinion is on the War or Veterans, as a citizen, your duty as an American is to help those that provided the blanket of freedom, assistance.

Devil Dog USA Inc. is here today because those that are oppressed need us. A voice for the Veteran community is needed. There needs to be a face, a voice and a figurehead on this forefront. If you don’t want to take charge, then we will gladly take the mantle.

devildogGonzalo Duran
Chief Executive Officer
Devil Dog USA Incorporated

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