|We Have Each Other's Backs|
|Written by Sherry|
|Friday, 20 February 2009 10:30|
CNN's hero of the day is a man for whom we can thank God.
Roy Foster seeks out and gives a second chance to homeless vets whose lives have been destroyed by alcohol, drugs, and trauma. More than 150,000 vets are homeless on any given night.
Foster's motivation: his past as a recovering addict himself and his faith embodied in his non-profit called "Faith*Hope*Love*Charity which created Stand Down House.
"Named for the military command that gives troops time to rest after arduous duty, the program provides homeless male vets food, shelter and a safe place to recover, as well as the tools to conquer their personal problems.
"The idea is that they can relax now; we'll take care of them," Foster said.
Now five buildings in total, Stand Down House provides transitional housing and support services to 45 veterans in different stages of recovery.
When vets arrive -- through referral by the Veterans Administration, which largely funds the program -- they receive meals, housing, clothing, counseling and transportation to the VA hospital for additional medical and mental health care.
After 30 to 60 days, eligible veterans must begin to look for work or attend school, but they can continue receiving housing, case management, addiction counseling and life skills classes for as long as two years. Successful veterans are eligible for the program's final component: permanent, sober-living housing.
With their past as a common bond, vets often become informal counselors to each other, helping one another stay on track.
"We have each others' backs," said Joey Elluzzi, a Vietnam veteran.
Many graduates find the companionship so valuable that they return as volunteers.
As of 2008, Stand Down House reported that 93 percent of its eligible residents found work and 84 percent of graduates went on to live independently. Foster and his staff are now working with other programs around the country, sharing what they've learned.
Despite his program's success, Foster said, there's more work to do. A new wave of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan is appearing at Stand Down House, and Foster said he's determined to serve -- and save -- this next generation.
I found this last word most moving.
"When asked why he does this, he simply answers, "It's my calling."
And I must add a personal note:
I really appreciate CNN's series on heroes. Almost always, these are people of great faith, generosity, and love taking risks and making sacrifices for the sake of others and they - and their work - deserve a bully pulpit. Three cheers to CNN for uncovering and covering these remarkable men and women.