MIND MATTERS: Woody’s Home for Veterans has been helping homeless vets struggling with mental health since ‘03
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Veterans are more than two times as likely to become homeless than those who don’t serve in the military. But one ArkLaTex organization is focused on shining light on the invisible.
Former military personnel can face unique risks and challenges after serving. Woody’s Home for Veterans aims to provide a stable environment for homeless veterans who are struggling with their mental health. Established in Shreveport in 2003, Woody’s Home for Veterans focuses on the forgotten ones by providing a safe haven for those most vulnerable. They assist with housing, clothing, food, and other services.
“We are kind of a transition from a hospital to the street. They are not appropriate for the nursing homes because of the mental illness and some don’t have any physical disabilities. We can take both, but primarily has to be mental illness. There has always been a stigma with mental illness, so it tends to be they’re not such a priority within the system, but they signed up, and they deserve it,” said Dr. Ronald Key, owner of Woody’s Home for Veterans.
Woody’s is the second largest community residential center for veterans in Louisiana, and was able to open its second home in 2008. Currently, the home houses veterans from three different combat operations that span over five decades.
“We have Korean, a lot of Vietnam now, but a lot of Gulf War. And when I say Gulf War, I mean the whole Middle East. And it’s just, it’s basically just giving them what they deserve and that is honor and respect, no matter what the outcome is,” said Dr. Key.
Dr. Key says part of his reason for giving back is because he experienced it firsthand with his father, a World War II veteran who suffered from what was then called “shell shock.”
“He either saw death or dismemberment. Didn’t talk about it back then. PTSD didn’t exist. It was called ‘shell shock.’ And I was 47 when he died and he only talked about the war three times,” Dr. Key said.
Clint Davis, an Army veteran and now a trauma counselor, says veterans can go through a lot of trauma due to the intense situations they can be exposed to, and they often struggle to seek help.
“‘Stigma,’ a lot of times, people will say. I know. When I was from Afghanistan, I had struggled with some PTSD, and some friends would say, ‘I thought you trained for this.’ And so a lot of people think that you are a veteran, you are trained for it, you shouldn’t have mental health issues, and the reality is that we don’t get trained for it. No one can be trained to experience death or dying or the fear of death or just experiencing the difficulty of going to war and being deployed,” Davis said.
Army veteran, Vernon, served as an armored personnel carrier and says being able to call Woody’s home has been life-changing. Once homeless, he now feels welcomed into the family. Another resident, former Navy sailor, Frank, says it’s the people and what they provide that make all the difference.
“The people, the staff, the living conditions, Dr. Key, the staff, the residents, the nearby hospital, the bus service, everything,” Frank said.
Dr. Key echoes the saying, “all gave some, and some gave all.”
“It’s pretty simple. They served. We are free because of it. Some died because of it. Why not give them something?” the doctor said.
Woody’s Home for Veterans is always in need of donations. They currently need anything a male might use, such as undergarments, personal hygiene products, and paper goods. For more information about how to donate, call 318-425-1928.
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