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Media contact: Paul Neville, 541-743-7121

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“Help For Every Circumstance.” One Veteran’s Story

Categories: Email Newsletter, Housing, Homeless Aid, First Place Family Center, Jobs, Staff Stories, Veterans, Volunteers
Author: SVdP staff
Date: Friday, July 3 2015
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man in front of flagEd Dietz

 Traumatic stress is associated with military service, but nothing in Ed Dietz’s Naval experience prepared him for the stress of the past two years.

“So much anxiety,” is how Karen Fleener-Gould remembers Ed and his wife Jody upon their first meeting little more than one year ago.

Now Ed and Jody are ready to give back, having experienced the full force of St. Vincent de Paul programs working on their behalf. The past year has brought them from being homeless and Jody’s health failing, to stable housing, jobs and the sense of a brighter future.

Thirteen months ago they dared not look beyond the crisis at hand. Jody was barely out of emergency heart surgery. They were homeless and living with Jody’s teenage son and a huge dog in a Walmart parking lot, all during the hottest days of Summer 2014.

Ed and Jody’s calamitous times began in Eastern Oregon where life was good until Ed suffered a roofing-related back injury. Jody worked in retail, but Ed could not find work to replace his old income. Their resources dwindled to the point they left town in search of alternatives.

They came to Lane County, a job prospect for Ed, and a housing arrangement that absorbed the last of their money. In short order Ed realized his roofing days were over, and the housing fell through, leaving them with only the parking lot alternative. In late June 2014 Ed rushed Jody to Portland for surgery, stopping only to beg – and receive -- a temporary tire from a Les Schwab dealership.

Post-surgery, they returned to the parking lot and their Durango. They came to Karen Fleener-Gould’s attention by way of the employment office where a visiting VIP representative overheard Ed describing his circumstances. The VIP rep was a temporary worker making her final visit, and in that pivotal moment she slipped Ed the business card that would change his and Jody’s lives.

Ed enrolled in Veterans In Progress to brush up his presentation and get some job leads. As it turned out Job Developer Harold McCain already had a prospect:  A maintenance position at a local retirement center. Ed took the job, which brought income plus an alternative parking place. The real miracle, in Ed’s mind, is that a case manager was able to have Ed’s birth certificate sent from the East Coast to Eugene on the promise of payment so he could get to work on that all-important first day.

Meanwhile First Place Family Center had the group on radar, eventually offering a parking place at Civic Stadium, far enough for a dog, close enough for showers, laundry and kitchen facilities. Sadly, the dog became a casualty of the hard times, but its departure meant the family could move to the First Place lot.

Behind the scenes, the wheels turned. Ed had done an initial intake with VetLIFT and turned down a single bed. Eventually he and Jody got the next transitional apartment that opened up, and Jody at last could enjoy a more traditional recuperation. She, too, got help through SVdP’s jobs programs, but case managers are quick to note that Jody found and landed the job on her own.

After Jan. 1st funds flowed from the VA to SVdP’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families to prevent or end veteran homelessness. That was the piece that brought Ed, Jody and Jody’s son to their permanent apartment in a shady complex less than a block from their preferred high school.

This July Fourth after Ed gets off at 5 p.m. he and Jody will drive to the same rural hillside where they watched fireworks last year, homeless but blended comfortably into a friendly crowd. This year will be different.

“No stress,” said Ed. “We can actually enjoy it a little more. Compared with a year ago, it’s huge.”

While progress sometimes seemed to come at a snail’s pace, in hindsight it came fast, along with Ed’s understanding of grassroots assistance programs like First Place versus those tied to federal programs.

“It’s important for veterans to understand that it can feel like a beauracracy because there are so many paperwork requirements,” said Karen Fleener-Gould. “But it works out in the long run.”

The challenge is to get veterans in for help, and that’s where Ed and Jody will direct their energies. Ed is a founding member of a peer network of veterans who can reach out to those most skeptical, distrusting or downright scared.

“I just want to help somehow, and so does my wife,” he said. “There’s help for every circumstance.”

More information:

Supportive Services to Veteran Families (SSVF)

Veterans in Progress (VIP)

Vet LIFT

First Place Family Center