A Year of Hope

living room area of the veterans house

One Year of City Mission's Crabtree-Kovacicek Veteran's House

On July 3, City Mission’s Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House celebrated one year of housing, supporting, and restoring hope to homeless veterans. 

“This house is a testament to what can happen when a group of guys trust and believe in each other and work together to accomplish one another’s goals,”said Steve Adams, City Mission’s Manager of Veterans Services. 

The Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House boasts a staggering 86% success rate when residents stay at least 90 days, and the shelter has also been operating at full capacity, serving 22 homeless veterans and finding them the resources they need to achieve sustainable independence.

“The first thing I said when I got here and saw the building is that it’snot big enough,” said Adams.  “There is a greater need in this community.”  In our area, one in twelve people are veterans, and veterans are 50% more likely to be homeless than average Americans.  Adams has had to use City Mission’s men’s shelter as an overflow dorm to house veterans while they wait for a bed to open up.  

Meet Will

Will is a new resident at the Veterans House and a former combat engineer for the US Army.  “Will is a classic story,” said Adams.  “He’s exactly the type of person we’re helping.”

“I had nothing when I got here except my army bag and a first aid kit,”Will explained.  “But from my first day here, people have been so generous.  I have more clothes now than I have in my whole life.”  

veterans house bed
Bedroom at the Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House

In the army,  Will had a very stressful job, working with explosives.   He battled depression and even tried to kill himself, though he does not remember doing it. He was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and honorably discharged from the Army thinking that his training would gain him a good civilian job.  “But I made and detonated bombs in the Army.  There’s no steady, civilian job around here like that.  I couldn’t get a job, couldn’t provide for my family. All I had to give them was time and energy.”  Will would walk six and a half miles to the nearest food bank, fill his army bag with groceries, and ruck march back – a twelve-mile round trip to provide food for his family.  He worked odd jobs for his neighbors to make ends meet.

In the ten years since his military service ended, he has been struggling alone in his PTSD, struggling to integrate into the workforce, and struggling to provide for his family, but he never asked anybody for anything.  Now that he is living at the Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House, he has been overwhelmed by the help and support being freely given not just from City Mission staff, who have helped him get therapy and meals for himself as well as food stamps and medical coverage for his whole family, but also from his fellow residents.

“The other vets are really nice,” he explained.  “They let me use their phones to call my family every night.  I was able to video chat with my newborn daughter and see her first smile.”

“I’m not good at trusting people,” he continued.  “I’ve had to work for everything.  But here, they’ve helped me out a lot.  There are people here I can talk to, people who went through a lot of the same stuff as me. People with PTSD.  I’m not alone in that anymore.”

Will has already been giving back to the Mission.  He is volunteering wherever needed and going out of his way to clean up the Veterans House and improve the landscaping by putting down mulch and pruning bushes.  “We gotta represent all veterans and make this place look good for the fourth of July.”

Over the past year, all the veterans at the Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House have worked to give back to the community and to other veterans.  They sent care packages to actively-deployed soldiers in Afghanistan and helped repair kennels and other facilities for“Angels for Everyday Heroes,” a local organization that connects veterans with service and therapy dogs.

“Everybody finds what they’re looking for here,” Adams said.  “They come to us with whatever they need, and we solve it.  In this House, we all walk together through the storms of life.”     

Thank you for making the Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House a reality. Without your gifts homeless veterans like Will would not find the Help  and Hope they so desperately need.  

July 5, 2019
Susan Gartland - Social Media Manager
Sue Gartland
Social Media Manager
Sue has a vast career in gospel rescue missions adding great value to the City Mission team. Sue has been in many roles in the mission and is always filling in where she is needed - which is A LOT!
sgartland@citymission.org

Recent Articles

City Mission Vets Give Back

2nd Annivesrary Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House
July 8, 2020

On July 3, City Mission’s Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House celebrated two years of life transformation for homeless veterans. “This house is a testament to what can happen when a group of guys trust and believe in each other and work together to accomplish one another’s goals,” said Steve Adams, City Mission’s Manager of Veterans Services. Since opening its doors in 2018, the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House has helped restore 27 homeless veterans to independent living and helped 33 residents gain sustainable income. Boasting a 74% overall success rate for housing, employment, income, recovery, and spirituality, the Crabtree House is helping to restore hope and confidence for the 22 veterans they serve. City Mission’s program is about veterans helping veterans. The response from local veterans’ organizations who have donated money, clothes, food, and time to the residents has been overwhelming. “The donors have been so generous to this house,” said Tim, an Air Force veteran who came to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House in October 2018 after breaking his hip. “The amount of donations that come in -- it’s just an overabundance. For me, it’s important to find a good way to give back.” In addition to getting help for our veterans, our residents are also finding ways to give help to other veterans. Every day, they are helping, supporting, and encouraging each other. “Vets are more willing and able to open up to other veterans,” explained Adams. Tim agreed, “It’s a matter of taking an oath and making a commitment. We all held up our end of the bargain for our country. And maybe that’s what sets us apart. An oath really does mean something to each and every one of us.” Veterans helping and supporting each other is key to their recovery. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, “The most effective programs for homeless and at-risk veterans are community-based, nonprofit, “veterans helping veterans” groups. Programs that seem to work best feature transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free environments with fellow veterans who are succeeding at bettering themselves.” But the veterans in City Mission’s program are also reaching out to the community and giving back. Wendi Kraemer is the President and founder of Angels Journey Home, a rescue shelter for animals. A few years ago, her organization partnered with the Veterans Administration to create the Angels For Everyday Heroes program, which rescues animals, trains them to be service animals, and then connects them with veterans in need all over the country. “There are so many homeless veterans in need,” she said. “So many suffering every day.” Her organization donates to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House every couple of months. “We’re here for vets,” she said. They were able to donate a nice suit to a resident who said he had never owned one. They even donated special shoes to a resident who suffered with foot pain related to diabetes. Last spring, a small group of residents from the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House went over to Kraemer’s 10-acre facility to give back. “They came and picked up trash, laid mulch all around the property,” Kraemer said. “We have a cat sanctuary, and they helped us out with that. It was great watching them laugh and joke around and just disconnect from their problems.” Joe, an Air Force veteran who came to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House in April of last year, was there that day, helping to give back. “It was a lot of fun. I love doing that kind of stuff,” he said. Joe replaced some roof boards on the cat sanctuary. Tim helped Kraemer sort through donated pet supplies. Joe and Tim both agreed it felt good to give back to an organization that is doing good in the world. “It’s good to feel productive,” Tim explained. “That’s rewarding in and of itself.”

A New Lease on Life

Resident 'Tim' takes a smoke break
June 12, 2020

“A New Lease on Life” In 2018, Tim, an Air Force veteran, was living in a hotel behind a bar. He had lost his Mom and his job of nearly twenty years in 2010, and his life had been slowly unraveling ever since. “Before I came here,” he said, “there wasn’t a single activity in my life that didn’t involve a drink – even taking a shower.” On July 6, he tripped over a pine root in the dark and broke his hip. “I was intoxicated,” he explained. “I haven’t had a drink since that night. That just woke me up. I firmly believe God laid His hand on me.” That freak accident eventually led him to City Mission, where, in August 2018, after hip surgery and eight weeks in physical therapy, he began the work of healing his mind, body, and spirit. Tim was born and raised in Monongahela. His Dad, who had been a Navy gunner in World War Two, was a crane operator for a steel mill in McKeesport, and his Mom was a Registered Nurse for a local hospital. He spent 12 years in Catholic School and received an excellent education. After graduation, he knew he needed a change of scenery after dabbling with drugs and alcohol his last few years of high school. Also, his dad foresaw the closing of local mills and knew that times would be hard financially in the Mon Valley for years to come, so Tim joined the Air Force, attending Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. After Basic Training, he trained to be an Air Crew Life Support Specialist. He would pack and maintain emergency items for the flight crew, such as flight helmets and survival kits – a job requiring significant attention to detail. In 1991, several years after leaving the military and returning home to the Mon Valley, he began working as a custodian for a school district in the South Hills, and he worked there for nearly twenty years. “It was the best job I ever had,” he said. “It wasn’t a high-paying job, but I really liked the people I worked with. It was very close-knit. And it was something different every day. It was the only job I ever had when I didn’t dread going to work.” Then in 2003, his drinking started to become more and more of a problem. “It was my own fault,” he said. “I can’t blame anyone but myself.” In 2010, he went to rehab, but he couldn’t complete the outpatient part of the program, because his mother, who had been ill, passed away. Completing the program was a requirement for returning to work, so he lost his job. Devastated, he moved to Oklahoma with his sister just to get away and start fresh, but that only lasted a few years. “This is home,” he explained. “The roots are sunk deep.” He moved back to the Mon Valley, but with his family all gone, he had nowhere to stay, so he lived for the next five years in a hotel behind a bar until the night he fell and broke his hip. He came to City Mission in August of 2018 and then moved into the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House that October. “This place affords you all the opportunities you need to heal,” he said. “It’s not a homeless shelter in the way you think. They offer career placement and medical care and classes. It’s a place to heal your mind, body, and spirit. When you heal physically, it helps with your recovery, and that helps you re-establish your relationship with Christ. And you’re just a walking shell unless you have a relationship with Christ. Mind, body, and spirit -- they all three mesh together.” “City Mission gave me a sense of self-worth and put me back in touch with the Lord,” he added. “Knowing that I could be of service is important to me. I just want to do something positive, effect positive change, and I know I’ve made positive contributions here.” “At the Crabtree House, we have confidence and self-respect. Perhaps it’s from our military experience. We’re all brother veterans, all working together for the betterment of all. I’m grateful to be able to have a sense of pride in something. And we take pride in that house.” “Thanks for saving my life,” he said to all the staff at City Mission. “For giving me a new lease on life.”