WINCHESTER, Ind. — Some recent allegations against The Journey Home (TJH), in Winchester, Indiana, have been made by former resident Steven A. Pryor, and former House Social Worker Rhonda Gard.
They contend that more services need to be available for the veterans at TJH, such as, learning skills, offering treatment, better care and rehabilitation. Pryor also believes that veterans are kept in the facility too long, to keep money coming into the facility.
“The Journey Home claims that they understand addiction, yet simply allows addicts to sleep there with little supervision while they ‘come down’,” Pryor said. “They do not refer addicts to the appropriate addiction counseling, as they need to keep their bed numbers up. Veterans with (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) PTSD also suffer the lack of care.”
In addition, Gard questions, “If TJH is not a treatment facility, then why do they need a clinical director?”
TJH Executive and Clinical Director Eldon Solomon said there is a great deal of clinical oversight and linking of services at TJH, which is a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requirement.
“But TJH is not a rehabilitation center,” Solomon explained. “It does not provide treatment. If individuals need and want treatment, we help them get there, but it is not required. We hold them accountable to a transitional plan, which is individualized; whatever plan they want. We provide skills if that is what the resident requests. We don’t require classes.”
TJH, a 501(c)(3) organization, opened its doors in March of 2014. It is a grass-roots organization that provides a home for male homeless veterans, for the purpose of transitioning them off of the streets into permanent housing, within about three to six months, according to Solomon.
The organization has not been without its struggles. According to Solomon, in 2015 and 2016, the home almost had to close its doors. On September 18, 2017, the organization’s officials signed a larger five-year sustainable bed per diem contract with the VA Northern Indiana Health Care Systems, to fund its 12-bed transitional residential facility, according to its website. In addition, TJH is working with the state and other funding sources in 2018, to provide some after care services, Solomon said.
Former employee Gard said there is no process in place to track residents that leave. According to Solomon, TJH is registered with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) database, where veterans assigned through the VA-contracted beds are tracked.
According to Solomon, collected 2017 statistics by TJH include statistics from the HUD HMIS database and a small number of veterans supported outside the HMIS system. A 2017 benchmarks performance report from the VA was not available at the time this story was published. The statistics show that TJH: took in 52 homeless veterans, found 33 veterans housing, helped five non-disabled Veterans into employment, case-managed 33 veterans into VA benefits and 31 veterans into non-VA benefits.
Another allegation of former resident Pryor, is that TJH hires veterans with addiction issues and criminal behaviors, such as theft, that are harmful to others at the facility. Solomon said he understands the frustration in the challenges of hiring former and or current residents, as they come into TJH chronically homeless and jobless after leaving the military.
“We hire them for very specific transitional reasons,” Solomon said. “They don’t have a lot of skills, and we work with them to develop those skills and try to be as patient with them as possible, which means giving them second or third chances. But when they break the law, we hold them accountable. Because of our mission, we will typically employ them when other companies will not.”
Pryor said The Journey Home is a poison to the veterans, and a blight on Winchester.
“Our veterans need a shelter where they can grow, where they can be a part of our community,” he said.
Former employee Gard said she questions what the TJH Board of Directors is doing. TJH Chairman of the Board of Directors and former Mayor of Winchester Steve Croyle said the mission of TJH has evolved over the years, which has caused some confusion.
“We are not the same as we were two years ago or even one year ago,” Croyle said. “We are largely being impacted by the direction we are given by the VA Administration, on what they want to see with the vets we try to serve. We were once one of the last stops that a veteran went through, and they had already been through a lot of clinical assistance.”
“The mission from the VA has changed, and they feel there is a greater probability of success in the way the vets are able to respond to treatment by being in housing first,” Croyle added. “We get people in the door who are in need of a lot of services. With that change in our mission, it turned a little from what could have been considered a norm in the process of helping the vets, into the eyes of some people as turning into something a little more radical, because we are a low threshold entry point, and we have to recognize that.”
“If you haven’t been a veteran, it is very difficult to appreciate and understand what these guys are going through,” Croyle said. “The level of indoctrination and training that is thrown on people at an early age of their lives to focus on one mission, and once that time is up, they are cut loose to assimilate – some can do that and some can’t. That is where we step up and try to fill the void.”
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