In late July, a Facebook post seeking help for a dog suffering from heat stroke lead Beaumont area resident Karen Kiesling to a nearby Village Creek State Park in Lumberton. There, she found a veteran, her daughter and their four dogs camped. The family, Army veteran Ruth Lufkin and her daughter Seevena Poole, had been evicted from their home after they got behind on rent as health conditions made it difficult for Poole to work and earn money.
After connecting with them, Kiesling got the family, including the four dogs, in a motel in Beaumont. Kiesling then made a post on her Facebook page on July 31 seeking assistance for the ladies and their dogs. Watch Beaumont TV station KFDM’s story calling for assistance.
The community responded including the Military Veteran Peer Network (MVPN).
Wade Adair, MVPN Peer Service Coordinator of the greater Beaumont area and Desert Storm Army, veteran, said that MVPN volunteer and Army veteran Damian Bennett saw the Facebook post contacted him “and jumped right in with assistance and helped spread the word. He is a true Veteran Advocate and is always offering and providing help to me. He is fantastic and I’m thankful he’s a part of our team.”
Pictured from left are MVPN Peer Service Coordinator Wade Adair and MVPN volunteer Damian Bennett.
Also seeing the Facebook post was veteran advocate and Beaumont area State Legislator James White. An Army veteran himself, White contacted the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) for any assistance TVC could provide. From this, Adair was also contacted by TVC’s Veteran Mental Health Department (VMHD) which supports the MVPN.
“We’ve been in contact with several individuals in the community that have offered further assistance,” said Adair. This includes an area church offering to pay deposits to secure new housing and utilities, people identifying potential homes, American Legion’s Social Services Coalition of Southeast Texas, people helping to pay the hotel bill and purchasing groceries, and a local judge reviewing the case of their eviction.
Adair hoped to have the veteran’s family out of the hotel and into a home as quickly as possible. Towards the end of August, a reasonable home was found with rent they could afford.
In early September, the family had moved into their new home. Assisting her move in were Kiesling and volunteers from local veterans group, SETX Vets. “Karen worked to purchase new beds and have them delivered. Volunteers from SETX Vets are moving donated items from the community,” said Adair. Both Adair and Bennett are members of SETX vets and assisted with the move in “along with key members. One who has also stepped up and help tremendously is Bruce Hamilton.”
“The Texas Veterans Commission is proud of the impact made across Texas by the Military Veteran Peer Network,” said TVC VMHD Director Dr. Blake Harris. “I share my sincerest gratitude for your work connecting Ms. Lufkin and her daughter to one of your volunteers who is offering them housing until they get on their feet again. This is what all our collective work and the MVPN is all about.”
Pictured is Dr. Blake Harris, Texas Veterans Commission Veterans Mental Health Department Director.
MVPN Peer Service Coordinators are trained and certified by TVC VHMD “to meet the unique needs of veterans and their families,” said Harris. “This includes training on Suicide Prevention and Military Cultural Competency, providing direct peer-to-peer support, giving warm-handoffs to local resources based on the individual needs of the veteran and family, and leading their own local teams of Peer Volunteers. All services provided by the MVPN are free of charge with no caps or limits on services provided.”
MVPN provides comradery and support to veterans and their families regardless of discharge status or the amount of time served.
Want to talk with a Peer in your area? Visit https://www.milvetpeer.net/page/custompage_map