United Way’s Mission United helps veterans in need
U.S. Army Veteran Nelson Moody loved the time he served overseas.
Moody participated in a “split-option” training program in high school in Baltimore, Maryland and he became a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. While in the Army Reserve, he received training similar to a Licensed Practical Nurse. He said he loved this experience so much, and he decided after high school to re-enlist with the U.S. Army.
“I had liked the military so much that I wanted to go to the regular Army,” Moody says. “I enlisted, and I went to Fort Benning, Georgia, with the infantry, and then I left Fort Benning and went straight to Korea for a year.”
Moody served in four different countries throughout the early 80s, and he was honorably discharged in 1986, he says.
“I enjoyed the travel and meeting people,” he said. “I was just an all-around people person, and I just liked seeing different things in life. The military afforded me all of that.”
He went back home to Baltimore after his time in the military, and he began developing his own talk radio show—he currently streams the show live on his own personal Facebook page. The show talks about his experience being a father and encouraging your children.
Moody’s actually authored four different books on the subject, as well. He has a pair of 16-year-old twin daughters and a 15-year-old son who live with him in Georgia, and one son and daughter in their mid-30s living in Baltimore—his oldest son has been in the Army for 15 years.
Moody moved to Atlanta to pursue his dream of furthering his talk radio career, but unforeseen circumstances led to the loss of his job and home. He reached out to United Way of Greater Atlanta and was connected with housing and employment. He had been homeless for 46 days.
“[The United Way] did an outstanding job, and I was able to get housing,” Moody says. “I work now as a security officer.”
Moody received help through Mission United, which was created about six years ago—the initiative was renamed to align with United Way Worldwide.
Danny Lester-Drew, United Way Supportive Services for Veteran Families Director, said
the homelessness division found about 10 percent of the homeless population of Atlanta were veterans, and so Mission United worked to “fill in the gaps” with these veterans.
“We knew that there were some issues to address with veterans, and around that same time the federal government was recognizing that that was a big issue, and they had issued grants around the country to help homeless veterans,” Lester-Drew said.
He said the goal is to provide veterans with housing first and then address other issues such as legal or employment services.
“Last year, we helped 510 veterans move from homelessness into permanent housing,” Lester-Drew said. “In the last five years, we’ve seen 70 percent reduction in veteran homelessness in Greater Atlanta. That comes from the coordination with the community and our partners.”
Mission United started by referring people like Moody to a case manager where they assess the veterans’ situation and work on securing housing. In many cases, it might mean addressing “landlord barriers,” which is where legal assistance may come into play.
Lester-Drew said the cases are worked on a month-by-month basis.
“It’s really individualized and each household has a different plan,” he said. “it depends on the program.”
Lester-Drew started as a case manager who worked specifically on the SSVF grants before coming to work with United Way. He’s worked on the project managing side and now as director.
“I loved this. I felt there was no better feeling than being there when a veteran got the keys to their own place, and now on the management side, I get to see the broader view of ending homelessness,” he said.
But, just because there has been a dent put in the homeless population of veterans in Atlanta, Lester-Drew knows his work isn’t over.
Other veterans like Moody can still benefit from this type of help. Those are the types of people Moody wants us all to remember this Veterans Day.
“To me, Veterans Day means showing appreciation and honoring those of us and what we go through,” he said. “We make sacrifices and leave our families to defend and protect the country. That’s a big honor, and I get emotional thinking about those that have been wounded or have died.”
If you would like to learn more about Mission United, or you know a veteran may benefit from these services, email [email protected], missio[email protected] or call 2-1-1 or visit http://211online.unitedwayatlanta.org/.
Bradley Roberts is a Content Manager at United Way of Greater Atlanta.