Members of the Brigantine Elks Veterans Service Committee recently made the first of six scheduled visits this year to Veterans Haven South — a state-operated facility in Winslow that helps homeless veterans find permanent housing and offers long-term treatment programs for addiction recovery and psychological and vocational rehabilitation.
Residents of Veterans Haven South must undergo evaluation by medical staff members of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They must agree to certain rules and conditions to be considered for the Veterans Transitional Housing Program that the facility oversees, according to Veterans Haven Treatment Team Supervisor Rebecca Edwards, but are otherwise allowed to come and go as they please, as long as they abide by a zero-tolerance policy while enrolled.
“We provide case management through our treatment team,” Edwards said. “There are six case workers or social workers under this (Transitional Housing) program, and every housed veteran must check in with their designated case worker once a week.
“We only accept honorably discharged veterans who satisfactorily pass an interview process,” she added. “They can't be on any active lease or considered housed in any way, and must be drug and alcohol free upon entry, and maintain sobriety throughout their treatment.”
The Brigantine Elks' role at Veterans Haven South is solely as a support group. The Elks prepare and provide a gourmet alternative to the cafeteria-style meals the veterans are accustomed to, according to Veterans Committee Chairman Joe Kelly. During Thursday's visit, the Elks delivered such gastronomic delights as beef tenderloin, shrimp cocktail, stuffed clams, crab cakes and a bevy of side dishes and desserts.
Additionally, committee member Phil Amplo donated a 48-inch flatscreen television and dozens of long-sleeve shirts were donated by the Brigantine Polar Bears Committee. The Elks also raffled off more than a dozen $25 Wawa gift cards.
Kelly mentioned this was a smaller group than others the Elks have served at Veterans Haven in the past, which he saw as a positive.
“The three goals that they work toward are getting healthy, getting housing, and getting the skill sets and employment foundation they need to be on their own, and sustain themselves in society,” Kelly said. “This is actually a smaller group than we've seen in recent visits, which I take as a good sign. That probably means that many of those who were here the last time got the help they needed and are now out of treatment.”
Kelly related a story of a veteran named Eli who came out of the Veterans Haven program, found employment and an apartment in Northfield, and was given a welcome-home party including a $300 check by the Elks National Foundation.
“And that's a regular occurrence with them; that wasn't a one-time thing,” Kelly said.
Prior to the chow line forming in the mess hall — military terminology was used often Thursday — Kelly thanked the veterans for their service to the nation.
“We again feel honored to be here with you,” Kelly said before the meal. “You served our country, and we offer you our prayers and best wishes, and we hope that this is the best year you've ever had.”