NEWS | Dec. 24, 2015

Filling up the pantry

By Amy Phillips Fort Hunter Liggett Public Affairs Office

FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. – Fort Hunter Liggett (FHL) delivered more than a thousand pounds of food donated by its military and civilian workforce to the Veterans Transition Center (VTC) of Monterey County on Dec. 17, 2015. 

“Fort Hunter Liggett is honored to be able to support our extended family of veterans at the VTC,” said Norris, who visited the facility for the first time. “I’m pleased to see the services they provide and the genuine care the VTC leadership and staff show to the veterans.”

One of the many VTC personnel to help unload and fill the food pantry was Parnell Strickland, an Army veterans who served with the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord and a graduate of the VTC program.

“”VTC has changed my life, and helped me become the man I am now - a proud veteran,” said Parnell.

“With this kind of help from FHL and others, we’re able to assist over 1,200 veterans a year with housing, food, clothing and information,” said Terry Bare, Executive Director of the VTC.

The VTC’s Coming Home Program provides homeless veterans with tools to reintegrate back into society with life skills as well as temporary housing. The VTC and the veteran agrees to a set of goals and “graduate” when they find employment and a permanent home to live.

After the food delivery, the FHL Commander, Col. Jan C. Norris, and several of his staff military and civilian staff joined the VTC in their annual holiday meal at the American Legion Post 694.

“Thank you all for your service. You’ve paved the path for me to wear this uniform and I’m honored to join you tonight,” said Norris as he addressed almost 100 veterans and their families supported by the VTC.

The Elks Lodge 1285 of Monterey provided a prime-rib steak dinner and the American Legion Post 694 provided their lodge for the event.

The VTC is one of only three centers in the country that provides transitional housing and services to help homeless veterans and their families get back on their feet and once again, be productive members of the community. 

According to the VTC website (www.vtcmonterey.org), there were more than 33,000 homeless veterans in 1994. The Veterans Administration (VA) estimates that more than 275,000 veterans are homeless on any given night.

Why are veterans homeless? It’s complicated. Many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which can lead to other problems such as substance abuse.  A lack of sustainable income, shortage of affordable housing come, and lack of support from family and friends are also contributing factors to the road to homelessness.

In addition to transitional homes for veterans and their families, the VTC provides health care, counseling, job training, and food and clothing.

Parnell’s success story is proudly displayed at the VTC lobby. He credits the counseling for “helping me better understand myself…and how important my family is to me.” Upon successfully graduating the VTC program, he volunteered his services and eventually became a full-time employee at the VTC. 

There are many resources available to those that need help, such as the Veterans Crisis Line (800-273-8255), the Monterey County Veterans Services (831-647-7613), the VA Medical Clinic of Monterey (831-883-3800), and the VTC (831-883-8387).