By Victoria Simmons
The Byron Buzz
On any given night in the United States, there are between 120,000 to 200,00 homeless veterans. In the Atlanta area, according to 2013 statistics, there are 1200 and even right here in our own communities, there are homeless veterans, men and women.
Veterans have served their country and some come home wounded or injured or with post traumatic stress syndrome or other ailments. The very government they served seems, at times, to care very little as evident in the news about VA (Veterans Administration) hospitals and services.
We owe them much, yet do we really care? Dean Terrell does care and he began helping veterans in 1995. A disabled veteran himself, he started Help A Veteran, a non-profit organization, on a local level in 2012. He has put his heart into helping veterans and has had to fight his own VA claim.
Terrell, who lives in Warner Robins, is quick to say he is not a VA lawyer and doesn’t know everything there is to know about VA law, but what he doesn’t know, he knows how to find and can enlist the right people.
Terrell wasn’t in a war zone; in fact, never has been to one. He was stationed in Key West with VF-45 and his squadron worked as an East Coast Top Gun outfit. When Desert Storm began, Dean’s squadron went from launching out three to four airplanes an hour to 10 to 12 an hour.
”I enjoy helping Veterans who have P.T.S.D (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome),” he said.
The first claim he worked on was for a Vietnam Veteran. Within two months the veteran went from 50% disability to 100% disability. Following helping this Veteran, Dean began gathering more information to enable him to help more Veterans.
In 1995 Dean suffered and almost died from a brain tumor which was removed in January of 1996. Once he realized he was going to live, he decided to dedicate his life to helping other Veterans. He has never regretted nor looked back on that decision.
”I know personally how life can be taken from any person and I enjoy helping Veterans and their families get the disability they rightfully deserve,” he said.
Additionally, he has helped military personnel while they were still serving their country. He has plans to integrate the Help A Veteran Organization into helping military personnel transition out of the military and help them understand what they deserve from the VA.
Terrell is so passionate, that years ago, he and his mom, Marion, drove to Pennsylvania to rescue a veteran named Joseph Perry, who is also an American Indian. He has lost touch since that time and wishes that he could find him again.
Dean has even opened his home to homeless veterans this past year because the VA wouldn’t help them.
On his facebook page you can find forms to download to help with claims including an Adult Disability Starter Kit.
Dean, with his own health problems, is in a lot of pain and has spent tens of thousands of dollars helping veterans. So much so, he finds himself even struggling to pay his own bills but to him it is all worth it.
Alison Feliciano met Dean when her husband, Marcus, was going into the ER at the VA hospital in Atlanta. Dean was behind them talking to another Veteran and as she listened, she found him very knowledgeable so she introduced herself. Dean helped her and her husband and Alison became a team member of Help A Veteran Organization. She said helping Dean is a way for she and her husband to give back. ”We are honored to stand alongside him and be a part of the team,” she said.
”Dean’s heart is so big,” she said. If you are ever driving around with him and he spots a homeless person on the side of the road, he will stop and see how he can help, she said. ”If it were feasibly possible, Dean would help every single Veteran in America.”
Help A Veteran provides assistance in helping to manage and wade through all the red tape, fill out paperwork, keep lights on, provide food and clothing and anything else which might be needed. The organization also serves as an advocate and someone will even go with the Veteran when they file a claim. If there is a problem with credit, Alison helps with that aspect and will help with a budget. Immediate needs, of course, like food and clothing, are met first. Sometimes all is needed is a listening ear and volunteers for Help A Veteran are able and willing to do that and to assure Veterans they are not alone.
Dean recently began coffee breaks for CB radio operators and truckers where they serve coffee and talk. They also do CB Radio work for the truckers. All donations go towards helping Veterans.
Just recently Help A Veteran has partnered with Genesis JOY House Homeless Shelter Inc. Genesis JOY House, which started in 2011 is a 301 (c) organization which helps displaced female veterans. The number of homeless female Veterans doubled between 2006 and 2010. Finding homes for the displaced female veteran is the first priority and that is not an easy task. Margaret Flowers is the Executive Director and she is excited to be joining forces with Dean’s organization. They have many plans in the works to help veterans. All members of both boards are volunteers and work other jobs so all donations go to the Veterans.
Regardless of the path taken, Flowers says the end game is the same which is to achieve successful reintegration into the community, sustainable self-sufficiency and permanent independent affordable housing. At this time Flowers says they are in search of 10-12 female Veterans who were formerly homeless or currently homeless to treat to a soup and salad fellowship luncheon. The meals were donated to the non-profit agency. Flowers said they are also looking for volunteers to serve on various committees including fundraising, Public Relations, Volunteer Recruitment and others.
Help A Veteran and Genesis JOY House are in the process of finding homes which can be used as Veterans Homes. They are working on fund-raisers to help with this endeavor. They can get some help from the VA Homeless program and the homes must be zoned commercial. It is Dean’s desire that no Veteran be homeless. He wants to see them off the streets and not living under a bridge. This time of year, he notes is really tough on Veterans.
Dean operates Help A Veteran out of his home and Feliciano says that even if one day they were blessed to have a dedicated location, everyone would still work elsewhere to ensure most of the money was going to the Veterans. There are some days he wonders if anyone else cares, but that doesn’t deter him from continuing to help everywhere he can.
If you care and would like to help you can do so by donating either financially or your time. Check out Dean’s Facebook page and website:
Help-A-Veteran.org; http://www.help-a-veteran.org. Or text him at 478-960-0932 or Feliciano at 678-402-1328. You can also check out his page: Truckers and CB Operators Coffee Break
Also check out Genesis JOY House Homeless Shelter, Inc. on Facebook; their website at http://www.genesisjoyhouse.org; or call Flowers at 478-918-7606.
While you are warm and cozy in your bed, remember some of our veterans are not so let’s get our Veterans off the streets. Stay tuned for updates from both organizations on fundraising events.