How to seek support for homeless or at-risk veterans

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Dustin Batson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and owner of Downtown Elixir & Spirits Company, is the one who discovered that Al Sims, 76, had died in his sleep in an alley in Downtown Bryan.

Sims was homeless and had been for years. Batson says that’s how he chose to live because of a phobia of the indoors. Batson says, in his experience as a veteran, it is often a mental health issue that causes homelessness among veterans.

“I think it’s a mental health issue more than any kind of financial issue because there’s so much support network out there,” said Batson. He cites the VA and local non-profits, like Brazos Valley Cares, which is funding Sims’ funeral.

Paula Wood with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs agrees and adds that there are many exacerbating factors that contribute to homelessness among veterans, including lack of affordable housing, relationship issues, potential substance addiction and more. She also says the VA is working on this problem all the time.

“One homeless veteran is one too many,” said Wood. She works with the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, which provides the following services and more:

• Referral to VA Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program (DRRTP)
• Substance Treatment Employment Program (STEP)
• Rehabilitation Reintegration Treatment Program (RRTP)
• Womens Trauma Recovery Center (WTRC)
• Referral to Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (VASH)
• Referral to Re-Entry Program (Transitional Housing)
• Evaluation for half-way house placement (VA contrat residential treatment)
• Assistance with obtaining DD214
• Referral to disability claims assistance VA, Social Security, SSI
• Help in getting medical and mental health treatment
• Help in finding housing
• Help in finding employment
• Help with finding food, shelter, clothing, and transportation
• Ongoing assistance to help homeless Veterans to achieve their goals
• Referral to contract residential treatment program in Austin for drug/alcohol and/or psychiatric stability for up to six months
• Legal Assistance
• Referral to Women Veterans Program
• Referral to OIF/OEF/ONDPrevention of homelessness

If you are a veteran seeking help, call the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System during office hours at 1-800-423-2111. See Related Links for more details.

The public is welcome to attend Mr. Al Sims' celebration of life on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Visitation is 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Hillier Funeral Home on 29th Street in Bryan.

At 3:00 p.m., a graveside service will be held at the Bryan City Cemetery on Texas Avenue.

A reception will follow from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Downtown Elixir & Spirits Company in Downtown Bryan.

If you would like to assist, contact Brazos Valley Cares at (979) 361-7815.