After 10 years of service, including two overseas tours as a combat engineer, Army Veteran Anthony Warren had many accomplishments under his belt.

But years after he left the military in 2001, Warren found himself at his local VA medical center seeking assistance. He knew there were programs and services available at VA but he never thought he would need help securing permanent housing.

Trauma from Warren’s time in the military had resurfaced after his return to civilian life, and he began using alcohol and drugs in an attempt to self-medicate. This led Warren down a dark path that ended in jail time and the loss of housing.

When he was released from jail, Warren participated in treatment programs at Hampton VA Medical Center in Virginia. He completed the treatment programs to fulfill his probation obligations.

Went to VA for help and stayed a year

“When I got out of jail, I went back over to VA and decided to stay there and get help,” Warren said. “I stayed for a year and got help through the drug rehabilitation and posttraumatic stress disorder programs at VA.”

While in treatment, Warren applied for a Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program voucher, which allows eligible Veterans to receive housing rental assistance.

Warren secured housing and began working in VA’s environmental services department. It was there he learned about the peer support program that would later become his passion.

“I heard about peer support and got a certification to be a peer support specialist,” he said. “I moved to North Carolina and applied for a job at VA. I’ve been a peer support specialist working in the HUD-VASH program for seven years now.”

Using his work to inspire others

Becoming a peer support specialist at the Salisbury VA Medical Center empowered Warren to continue sharing his story and connecting with other Veterans.

During this time, he also met and married a woman that understood his previous struggles with addiction and eventually moved to North Carolina with him. He was also able to go back to school, where he earned degrees in interdisciplinary studies and addiction and recovery.

“I’m on track to graduate this year with a master’s in clinical mental health counseling,” Warren said. “I spend most of my days helping to end homelessness here and sharing my story. I let Veterans know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Warren never could have imagined he would become such a prominent advocate for VA. Through his work, he helps other Veterans who are dealing with substance use issues.

He challenges others’ negative perceptions of Veterans who have faced such issues.

Helps landlords see you are more than your past

“Landlords sometimes fear accepting HUD-VASH vouchers, but Anthony can say, ‘This may be my past, but a HUD-VASH voucher enabled me to get to this level of stability,’” said Tiffany Price, Health Care for Homeless Veterans program manager. “Landlords who have not worked with us before look at him and realize you are more than your past. They can now be a part of transforming the future for someone who has served our country.”

The treatment programs at VA and the HUD-VASH program have helped Warren become the person he is today.

“The advice I give out the most is, You have to fulfill the obligation you took when you joined the military, to be of service to others,” Warren added. “The best way to do that is to take care of yourself and continue to take care of others. Stay in the fight. Don’t stop.”

 More information

  • Read more about the HUD-VASH program to determine if you are eligible to receive rental assistance.
  • Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness should contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
  • Visit the VA Homeless Programs website to learn about employment initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
  • Subscribe to the Homeless Programs Office newsletter to receive monthly updates about programs and supportive services for Veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

By Shawn Liu is a community engagement coordinator with the VHA Homeless Programs Office

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Published on Sep. 27, 2021

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