HOW TO HELP “If you know or meet a veteran who is currently homeless, please don’t ignore them,” urges Lisa Pape ’88, national director of Homeless Programs for the Veterans Health Administration in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Ask them if they would like assistance, and then offer to call the Homeless Hot Line — 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) to get them connected with services.” To find the nearest VA facility: www. va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp. For more detailed information on VA Programs for Homeless Veterans: www.va.gov/homeless.
A native of Brunswick, Ohio, Pape has been exploring veterans’ concerns since she was a student at Miami. During her summers, she worked at a gas station across the street from the VA Medical Center in Brecksville, Ohio. “The campus was mainly used as a rehabilitation center for veterans suffering from drug/alcohol abuse, those who were homeless, and [those who needed] psychiatric care.
Veterans would come in and get their cigarettes, coffee, and sodas — and at times they would share their stories, their plans to change their lives, and [how] they were working in their 12-step programs. “All the veterans I interacted with had hope and motivation to become the strong, resilient men and women that they were when they were soldiers. Somewhere along the line, they fell on hard times, and they wanted to make a change. It was at that point when I really knew I wanted to work for the VA. It was another experience for me that solidified my destiny.” She had always been drawn to help people. “I read this story in Reader’s Digest when I was 12 or 13 about a seeing-eye dog and the training it got from a social service agency. That story spoke to me, and though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, it helped me realize my calling. To be a social worker.” Family and friends urged her to look instead toward the bigger paychecks of banking or engineering. But Pape was focused. She studied psychology at Miami, with dual minors in gerontology and social work. “In college, I did a couple of social service jobs,” she said. At the “local drop-in center and hotline, we answered phones or talked with anyone who came in and wanted to talk. That experience taught me to listen and empathize.” She earned a master’s in social work from Case Western Reserve University in 1990 before joining the VA.
This “enabled me to help former soldiers and provided me the mission I was looking for.” Whether she’s testifying before Congress or meeting veterans temporarily without a roof, Pape never wavers from that mission. She is spurred by a quote from Deepak Chopra, “You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.” Pape works with communities “to ensure that there is no wrong door for veterans seeking help. I have come to understand how close so many of us are to becoming homeless. Minimumwage employment does not cover housing costs anywhere in the United States. This puts a lot of people at risk for homelessness: one paycheck away from not being able to pay your rent because of life events — loss of a job, health issues, child care, or any other extra expense that comes up and may impact the delicate balance.” She sees that off-kilter balance every day, never more clearly than during her Skid Row work. “Being there,” she recalled “reinvigorated me to work harder, smarter, better, and more collaboratively with our partners who are all working toward the same goal — ending homelessness for veterans and for all Americans. “Service members should never have to find themselves without a place to call home.” Betsa Marsh is a freelance writer in Cincinnati and a frequent contributor to Miamian.
Plight of the Honeybee Quest for a Healthier, Heartier Bee IN THIS ISSUE: -Helping Homeless Vets -Top of His Game -An Eggs-and-Bacon Friend...