JOLIET – Ronald Vann spent more than 25 years on the streets, in garages and abandoned houses as a homeless veteran.
Now 60, Vann is one of more than 100 veterans who have been supplied with permanent housing in Will County since the start of 2016. A program led by the Will County Continuum of Care has effectively ended homelessness among veterans in the county, local and federal officials announced Tuesday.
The Will County Veterans Assistance Commission gave Vann a ride to the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Maywood more than eight years ago, and his life was forever changed.
“That day I had made my mind up that I wasn’t going to live like I was living,” Vann said. “That was a rough way to live. I don’t wish that on anybody.”
Vann, who served in the Army from 1976-79, vowed to himself that he would use every tool the VA and VAC supplied him with to get his life right. He struggled with addiction over the years.
“I thought, ‘I ain’t gonna turn around now. I’m gonna do just what they say’,” Vann recalled Tuesday.
He entered A Safe Haven Foundation in Chicago and asked to take the longest program they had.
“I didn’t want to go in there for a month and come back out and fight to keep this demon away,” Vann said. “I wanted to be in there as long as they could keep me in there.”
At 52, after he was out of recovery, he “got his health right” at the Hines VA Hospital.
Fast forward to Tuesday, and Vann smiled as he thought of going to his own mailbox and making his own pot of coffee. And, he just paid his first health insurance bill.
Sept. 1 will mark his first year in his own place.
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Matthew Doherty sent a letter to Will County officials acknowledging the success of the Joliet, Bolingbrook/Will County Continuum of Care in ensuring any veteran in Will County who is experiencing homelessness will receive help to find permanent housing. He commended the infrastructure and systems the continuum has built to ensure any veteran experiencing homelessness in Will County quickly gets the support needed to find a permanent home.
“Through partnership and perseverance, Will County has become the 50th community in the nation to end veteran homelessness,” said Doherty. “The lessons we learn from communities like Will County are helping us end homelessness for veterans nationwide.”
In 2016, 59 veterans were connected to permanent housing in the local community and since the beginning of 2017, 45 veterans have been connected to permanent housing in the county.
“I am proud of the collaborative effort in Will County that is working towards ending homelessness for all of our veterans,” Will County Executive Larry Walsh said. “These veterans have made large sacrifices to protect our freedom and our nation. The very least we can do is assist them in finding permanent housing.”
For information about the Will County Continuum of Care, contact Will County Center for Community Concerns Homeless Services Director Merridith Montgomery at 815-722-0722, extension 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.