Mistrust and mental health issues are barriers for homeless vets in Durango

Mistrust and mental health issues are barriers for homeless vets in Durango

At least 120 displaced veterans live in La Plata County

Clockwise veterans Larry Jelinek, Greg Dotson, William Brooks, Butch Crim, Skip Ferguson and John Jerrett hold a meeting Thursday at the La Plata County Veterans Awareness Center. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

According to those who provide support services to veterans in Durango, self-esteem, mental illness and distrust of national society are the greatest obstacles that veterans face when leaving. is about reintegrating into a “normal” way of life. Most of them just want to be left alone.

The La Plata County Veterans Outreach Office is asking for all possible support to continue providing food, clothing, and access to other services to homeless veterans in the area.

The agency confirmed Thursday that it will receive a donation of more than $18,000 for operating expenses, the first such donation since 2018, VOC’s Rockling Scott said.

The donation came from The United Methodist Church’s Summit Church in Durango, said William Brooks, commander of Disabled American Veterans Silver San Juan Chapter #48.

“We’ve been very, very thrifty,” Scott said. “In other words, if we hadn’t gotten this grant, we would only have about six months left to open the doors and we would have had to sell our space.”

Other Brooks board members said the donation was good news.

Rockling Scott, who helps as a driver with transportation services for the La Plata County Veterans Outreach Office, said those interested in helping the organization can call him directly at (970) 317- 5718.

The small center provides clothing and food and can help people access health and treatment services, but community support is sorely lacking and more storage is needed, Brooks said.

The nonprofit Neighbors in Need Alliance, which conducted the La Plata County homelessness count and survey, released in July, determined that at least 400 homeless people live in the county. from La Plata. At least 120 of those people are veterans, according to the VOC.

Skip Ferguson, VOC board member, is angry with the city of Durango and La Plata County for the closure of the unmanaged Purple Cliffs camp and lack of action to support the homeless community moved.

But he also says the residents of Purple Cliffs should have taken responsibility for their footprint on the land.

He said someone needed to hold homeless people accountable with weekly checkups. And accessible mental health services, which the VOC board says are lacking in Durango, are critical to supporting the homeless veteran community.

“When you live up there on that mountain and you have manic depression and anxiety disorders, there’s only one place you go and that’s down there,” Brooks said.

Veteran William Brooks, commanding officer of Disabled American Veterans Silver San Juan Chapter #48, speaks during a meeting Thursday at the La Plata County Veterans Outreach Center. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Veteran John Jerrett speaks during a meeting Thursday at the La Plata County Veterans Outreach Center. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Brooks said there was a “line of demarcation” between allowing and helping someone who distrusts society and prefers the streets.

“They may have a plethora of needs, but what will motivate them to move forward into something functional or at least get their lives back together – maybe it’s not staying in Durango,” did he declare.

Brooks was homeless in 2014 and said “it was a very difficult time”.

He said that you have to find self-esteem to finally find accommodation.

“We have guys who have been down, down, down, down,” he said. “They were disappointed. They failed, whatever. They are disappointed with the system. And they’ve lost faith in all of that, and then they start to lose faith in themselves.

Skip said the VA office was understaffed and lacked adequate funding.

David, a homeless Persian Gulf War veteran who declined to release his last name, said many homeless Durango veterans served in Afghanistan.

“They still have itchy skin,” he said.

“The easiest way to explain it is that I’m not really a good guy,” he said. “But I knew a guy who read the Bible every day. It was shattered. A guy who had a family and children, he will never be well put together. It took me 10 years to get over it. »

He said veterans are too often treated with pills instead of therapy or other mental health services.

“An NFL football player earns as much as he spends on education in a state,” he said. “You can pay this guy $40 million but you can’t get books or a lead-free building or pay your teachers or anything?” But he needs a raise and we need to get 10 more? »

Brooks said it was difficult for members of the homeless community to access professional mental health care.

For the La Plata County Veterans Awareness Center, the agency could use more coats, Scott said.

Coats, pants, boots, sleeping bags and non-perishable food items are all welcome at the VOC — but please, no more toothpaste — David said.

Williams and Scott also said the donated coats were in dire need. Additionally, the VOC is looking for someone who is willing to donate a small storage unit to keep supplies, including crutches and wheelchairs, in order to collect more items to lend to those in need. .


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