Madison Street Veterans Association began about three years ago with a group of homeless veterans living in an emergency shelter in Phoenix. The veterans decided that they should band together to improve the conditions in the shelter for themselves and any veterans who showed up in the shelter. What a difference they made! Reduction of violence, alcoholism, drug trafficking, and general improvement in order and hygiene in the shelter. It just proved what all of us already knew, that veterans will stick together, help each other out, look after each other, just like we did on active duty when we were serving our country.
Our motto, "Veterans Helping Veterans" guides us on the path to self-sufficiency and independence, but brings with it a sense of camaraderie and belonging. We understand each other, and are there for each other. When a veteran shows up with physical or other disabilities, we do what we can to make sure his or her needs are taken care of. We consider it an obligation and an honor to be able to provide whatever support is needed to another veteran.
Eighteen months ago, we opened our first transitional living facility for homeless veterans, MANA House (Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force). However, since we only have room for 51 veterans at any given point in time, we open up the facility twice a week to homeless veterans throughout the community to use our showers, laundry facilities, and get a bite to eat. We also take our van (donated by Disabled American Veterans) out to the alleyways, river bottoms, and desert to bring water, sleeping bags, blankets, hygiene kits, etc. to homeless veterans wherever they happen to congregate. Periodically we have barbeques and festivities and invite the whole veteran community, especially homeless vets from other facilities or who are still out on the streets. Our brothers in the American Legion, VFW, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans, and many others, have helped to support our efforts. It's very gratifying to be able to share our good fortune with other veterans.
We will continue to grow and offer service and support to veterans, to help veterans reintegrate back into civilian life. We currently have one veteran of Korea living at MANA House, a number of Vietnam veterans, and some of our younger residents are veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Providing a supportive environment for vets in need is our mission and our passion. We will continue to serve, and especially wish to offer assistance to our current veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Terry Araman is the Program Director of the Madison Street Veterans Association, one of the nation's first homeless veteran service organizations based on the principle of peer support.