PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Recent revelations about the Wounded Warrior Project have cast doubt on the effectiveness of some veteran charities.
But there’s one very effective local provider, and a new program that helps vets find the help they need.
“I was hit by shrapnel from an RPG, a rocket propelled grenade,” said veteran Josh Gehrlein.
Gehrlein survived his injures in Iraq, but sometimes coming home is tougher than the war.
“It’s hard to adapt from living over there and coming back here and adjusting to civilian life, I guess,” he says.
He fell into depression and substance abuse and nearly ended up homeless before finding the Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard. It’s there that Gehrlein now has a home, a job and a future.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “What are your hopes?”
Gehrlein: “Live a happy life, keep moving forward.”
For veterans searching for help and for the rest of us looking to donate, finding the most effective organization can be challenging.
There are more than 100 veteran support providers in southwestern Pennsylvania, some more effective than others.
Veterans Place, for one, addresses the most basic needs – providing housing in the community for up two years, along with counseling and job training with the goal of self-sufficiency.
“Getting people through the program, getting them housing, jobs, but more importantly, helping them with the skills that are going to sustain them out in the community,” said Director Marlon Ferguson.
But how can other vets find the organizations and the services right for them?
“It’s difficult to navigate that terrain if your returning home and trying to figure out issues such as hiring and housing and training, which is what a lot of vet are looking for,” said Grant Oliphant, of the Heinz Endowments.
To connect vets with right help, the Heinz Endowment has funded a service called PAServes, a network of two dozen vetted organizations. A veteran need only contact PAServes by phone or email and he or she will be connected with the right organization, one-stop shopping to cut through the morass.
“Where the vet goes to one place, figures out what they need, and gets a referral to the right organization for the right service,” says Oliphant.
For donors, too. Recent criticism of the Wounded Warrior Project has left many not knowing where to turn.
For more information on PAServes, visit their website at this link.
“You’re donating $100 to this non-profit, the last thing you want to think about is where is that money going to go,” said Afghanistan War veteran Brandon Rumbaugh.
He advises doing your research and giving to strong local organizations with a proven track record.
“Your see what’s going on and you have no doubts in what you’re supporting,” he says.