After almost a year, Michael Brumfield’s hard work is starting to bear fruit – as a full time cook at Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System.

After he got out of the Army, Brumfield came back home to New Orleans, but fell on hard times and eventually became homeless. Having nowhere else to go, he walked into VA’s Community Resource and Referral Center and asked for help.

But it was a chance meeting with medical center director Fernando Rivera that really gave him food for thought.

“I got to talking with the director of the hospital and he said you ought to go to this program we’re setting up,” said Brumfield. “So I went and applied for it and I got accepted.”

Brumfield is the first from a class of six that graduated last December from The Teaching Kitchen.

The Teaching Kitchen is a partnership with the medical facility, the Greater New Orleans Volunteers of America and the Fresh Food Factor, a program that provides local homeless or at-risk Veterans with culinary job skills that could help them obtain employment in any one of the city’s many restaurants.

“The program was intense and, at times, difficult, but fun,” said Brumfield, who applied for a full-time position as a cook earlier this year.

Brumfield applied for the job, got it and now works in the inpatient kitchen preparing meals for patients and managing food deliveries as well as inventory, supplies and cutlery, uniforms and many other things necessary to keep the kitchen running.

“It feels great to be able to make sure the Veterans have good quality food that tastes good,” he said. “If the food isn’t good, you know Veterans are going to tell you. We make sure they get a good healthy meal.”

As for getting past homelessness, Brumfield has this advice for Veterans. “You can do it—I was homeless, I didn’t have anywhere to go. I just kept pushing and pushing, and the opportunity came up, and I took it. You just can’t stop trying.”

IMAGE: Jamie DannenJamie Dannen is a public affairs specialist in the Technical Career Field Program at VA New Orleans. She is an Army Veteran and a graduate of Kansas State University.

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Published on Feb. 8, 2018

Estimated reading time is 1.9 min.

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  1. CHAD E CHILDERS February 20, 2018 at 9:35 am

    I was homeless veteran sleeping on the streets of Jacksonville, FL. I found a program in Jacksonville that assists veterans with housing and job placement assistance. There are all sorts of programs out there. You just got to look for them. I now own my own business. Things get better …sometimes it takes a while.

  2. Ellen E Watson February 13, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    I’m looking for a nice veteran with benefits! Any

  3. S M February 9, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    Great. I’m up here in Maine, unemployed. I’m a 90% disabled vet but my VA won’t give me IU or 100%, so they are implying I can work. I have an application in with them and have had two interviews. I wasn’t hired either time, the second time was because I “didn’t bring my personality up enough” during the interview. Apparently the interviewer wanted a song and dance man to handle customers not some one capable of using a computer and getting the job done. So, in my case VA is saying I’m employable even at 90% disabled but they won’t hire me either. I am VRA eligible which means non-competitive hire but the hr people turn every job into competitive hires by having me interview against other candidates rather than seeing I’m qualified for the job and just hiring me non competitively. Go figure. Maybe I need to become homeless too so they will hire me. By the way, I DO meet the qualifications for IU, just not the regulations. That’s a real left handed way of screwing over a vet from getting 100%.

  4. shipdog7 February 9, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Well done Michael Brumfield. Been there done that. Not something we are proud of for sure. Sometimes our wires get crossed along the way in life. Hard to figure out where to go next. As you stated…just keep pushing. Most folks think being homeless was a result of being lazy. Not caring. And even being uneducated. Life can take us on a journey most others never have to experience. Why we were sent down that road…..some say it is God’s plan. Lessons in life we have to learn. When we learn one…we move onto the next. I am now 74 and expect I will have a few more adventures waiting for me. But it is worth it. We gain a lot of knowledge…from living it.

  5. Mary S. Bourgeois February 9, 2018 at 11:00 am

    Stacie Albertson and running water to your construction trailer home. I can simply speak with my experiences in Battle Creek, Michigan. Habitat for Humanity is a great starting point as well as phoning 211. Hope that helps, Ms. Albertson.

  6. Mary S. Bourgeois February 9, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Would be wonderful if the Battle Creek VA Medical Center also had a Community Reference and Referral Center. There are so many wonderful recovery-oriented opportunities in the Battle Creek [Michigan] area that no one person can keep up with them all.

  7. Stacie Albertson February 9, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Does anybody know of any programs that are out there for veterans that will help them with construction work on a construction trailer to make it livable in Minnesota I have Water and Electric on the property but I don’t have it in the construction trailer and I’ve been living without running in the construction trailer for about 3 years and I would really like to have this construction trailer redone so I can live in it but I have no idea how to do construction so I’m trying to find discounted materials and also to find somebody that does construction work for a discount and is willing 2 show me how to do the things myself so I can help out and learn something

    • August Jones February 9, 2018 at 11:12 am

      YouTube has videos that will teach you to do those things. Craigslist has a free section that you can browse-thru and find materials you may be able to use, and construction sites have items the site manager will be happy for you to haul away for them.

    • Dave Hiney February 9, 2018 at 12:05 pm

      Your local VFW or American Legion post may be able to assist with construction. My local post built a small home for a vet in need and Home Depot provided discounted products.

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