something about the homeless population in Northern Michigan.
A lot of them are military veterans.
Ryan Hannon, the street outreach coordinator, brought it to my attention
back in February, 2009 that there were approximately 13 homeless veterans
in the area that were not receiving services, said Pam Cuthbert, director
of veterans programs at Goodwill. Because of Ryan we got in touch with
the VA hospital down in Saginaw.
When a broader survey was tallied, officials estimated the number of
former military personnel without homes in Northern Michigan could be
At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Cuthbert was encouraged to apply
for a grant to help pay for a housing complex for homeless veterans.
That was a huge, huge undertaking, Cuthbert said. The grant application
totaled 90 pages and took hundreds of hours of work from 10 staff members
at Goodwill. The grant, which will cover a portion of the cost of the land
and construction, was awarded in October and construction of the $1.8
million project is now underway in Gaylord.
A WAITING LIST
The center is expected to open in August but there is already a waiting
list to get in.
Candidates are evaluated by the VA for eligibility. Dishonorably
discharged veterans are not eligible.
Among the first in line is Shawn Cannon, an Army Reserve veteran who
currently lives in a hotel in Gaylord.
Cannon, 48, is originally from Detroit, where he joined the Army after
leaving foster care. He spent six years in the service, spending time in
artillery training in Alabama and as a cook for a military police unit
stationed in the Detroit area.
I enjoyed serving, Cannon said. I joined to serve my country.
The past few years hes bounced around from Minnesota to Toledo to Detroit
and he finally landed in Gaylord.
He said being on disability and health troubles prevent him from working
as a cook.
He hopes getting into the transition house will enable him to save enough
money to purchase a small plot of land and a trailer where he can grow a
garden, raise chickens and write Christian poetry.
Im wanting to get into the housing over here, Im looking forward to
it, Cannon said.
HOMES ARE THE MISSION
Once in the program, Goodwill and the VA will work to transition vets out
That means offering life skills and job training, establishing goals, such
as reuniting vets with their families, and setting up whatever medical,
psychological and substance abuse treatment might be necessary.
The primary goal is to find a permanent home for the veteran, who can live
at the center for up to two years.
When Bruce Loose, 58, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, found
himself out of work and without a place to live in Cadillac last fall, he
said a social worker there told him he might find better services in
Loose moved and he was not disappointed.
He discovered at Goodwill a willingness to help veterans.
Goodwill Industries is very determined to see that we get the help, that
we get the care we need, Loose said.
Loose said homeless veterans are good candidates for rehabilitation
because of the training they received while serving.
The other thing they see is that were motivated, we understand
discipline, he said.
Loose will not need the services of the transition house. Since November,
volunteer work at the Goodwill store led to a job there. Once employed, he
was able to find an apartment, which he plans to move into this week with
another Vietnam veteran.
Goodwill staff have also helped Loose get treatment for post traumatic
stress syndrome and depression.
Hes still worried about the other homeless veterans who live in northern
Theyre still under the wire, theyre laying between the tracks
somewhere, he said.
Gaylord was selected to be home to Northern Michigans first homeless
veterans community complex because there is a VA outpatient clinic there
and because of its central location.
What I discovered was, good old Michigan with its mitten, there are
several (outpatient veterans clinics) around Northern Michigan but the one
that is centrally located is the one in Gaylord, Cuthbert said. Not only
is it centrally located in northern Michigan, but its near major
That means easy access to VA hospitals in Saginaw and Ann Arbor.
The Gaylord complex, which will include four duplexes and two single
family homes, will have room for two dozen men.
SINGLE MEN ONLY
While Cuthbert said she expects to see more female homeless veterans and
homeless families of veterans in the area, this transition house will be
open to single males only.
The Veterans Administration recommends separating women and men in such
programs because homeless women veterans often have a history of sexual
abuse, Cuthbert said.
There are more men than there are women up here homeless at this stage of
the game, Cuthbert said, adding that she expects the number of women to
increase as more veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan struggle to reenter
In fact, Cuthbert said, Goodwill might get to work soon on the massive
pile of paperwork it would take to win a grant for a homeless veterans
transition house for women.
In the meantime, there are several plans underway at Goodwill to raise
money for the current project.
Patrick Sullivan is the new investigative reporter at Northern Express