VA NY Harbor Health Care System
Whole Health & Homelessnesss
Helping a person define personal goals and then partnering with them to improve his or her life on their terms is a key to achieving lasting change. A recent webinar on the national VA Whole Health initiative for Homeless Veterans entitled, “Whole Health: What really matters to you?” gave several examples of Veterans who realized their own personal goals as they moved out of their homeless crisis, improved their health and well-being, found employment or achieved other personal goals that were important to them. The experience of a Veteran in our local program shows that positive change is possible:
A homeless Veteran with a mental health and substance use disorder and previous suicide attempt came into our VA Homeless Program. The Veteran engaged with his case manager in HUD/VASH, followed through with substance abuse and mental health treatment, and then entered the CWT program, where the Veteran is now gainfully employed. The Veteran is now permanently housed, continues to be gainfully employed, engages in PACT and Mental health and maintains sobriety. The Veteran also provides support to peers in SARP groups who are working on sobriety and now has a longer term goal of becoming a peer specialist.
In working with Veterans in the midst of a homeless crisis, the Social Work staff at VA NY Harbor Healthcare System has always taken a holistic view of the Veteran’s life with the Veteran at the center of his/her experience and goals. The program focuses on many aspects of their lives, not just their housing situation. These include housing, employment or economic circumstances, medical and mental health issues, nutrition and social connections. We partner with each Veteran and collaborate with an interdisciplinary team of providers to design a treatment program based on the Veteran’s own goals.
More specifically relating to homeless Veterans, basing a treatment plan on the Veteran’s vision for his or her life, as well as using evidence-based health education for prevention and disease management, moves the conversation from disease and clinical care to a discussion of what will increase a sense of wellness. Karen Fuller, Homeless Program Manager, says: “If you’re homeless, that idea may sound like a luxury, but when someone has hit bottom, it may be a perfect time to begin to visualize wellness goals in which the sky is the limit. The Veteran can be moving towards a more stable housing situation that also includes better health and wellness and more personal pride and satisfaction in their life.”