For the past few years, COTS has sought to initiate programming for area veterans in need. Towards the end of 2014, COTS began collaborating with the Fox Valley Veterans Council in order to provide a safe and stable place for veterans as they wait to receive a government housing voucher and search for independent housing. In order to qualify for a voucher, veterans need to have a physical mailing address for a short period of time. COTS is able to provide this necessary component, while simultaneously providing the space and attention that a veteran experiencing homelessness needs.
The three veterans who are currently receiving services through this collaboration were previously considered homeless and also suffer from combat injuries, not to mention PTSD. As the only provider of transitional shelter in the area, COTS is the most viable option when taking into consideration the health needs of our vets. At COTS, we provide individuals with the tools needed in order to achieve self-sufficiency, while other housing providers in the Fox Valley serve emergency and crisis needs.
Each veteran that is referred to COTS through the Fox Valley Veterans Council is expected to participate in all aspects of COTS programming, including paying a monthly program fee to cover the cost of case management and basic needs. The council will fund up to three months of program fees for each veteran that moves into the COTS program.
A closer look at the life of a vet experiencing homelessness
As an active member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Josh was the first veteran referred to the COTS program through the Fox Valley Veterans Council. Josh served in the army for about six years and now suffers from physical limitations that forced him to let go of his job as a mechanic. But this was only the beginning of a tumultuous series of events.
While struggling with his medical condition and unemployment, Josh was also undergoing marital issues, which would later lead to a divorce. He now has designated visitations with his daughter and attends child support court. After the separation, he experienced financial hardship, making it difficult to rent on his own. As a result, he spent time couch surfing from one place to the next. Eventually, he decided to seek help from the Fox Valley Veterans Council, which resulted in a referral to COTS. This was a turning point for Josh.
Turning life “180 degrees around”
On December 6, 2014, Josh moved into COTS, where he has been given time to reflect and learn more about himself. When asked what he has taken away from his time at COTS so far, he hopefully replied, “There’s more help out there than I thought there was…I honestly didn’t know there was a program like this.” He is currently learning valuable lessons about budgeting through Financial Peace University, which is offered to all residents of COTS.
After only a month and a half, Josh has already received a government-issued housing voucher, and is taking the necessary steps towards self-sufficiency. If everything goes as planned, Josh will be moving out of COTS by the end of February. He is also looking forward to the possibility of going back to school to get a degree in a new field. After everything he has been through, Josh now realizes that “Even when your life is in the dumps, you can still turn it 180 degrees around.”
This story undoubtedly sheds light on the importance of the collaboration between COTS and the Fox Valley Veterans Council. There is a newfound hope for veterans in our community: Josh may represent the first of many who will succeed in breaking the cycle of homelessness.