2018-05-27 / Insight

Project Home works to help area’s homeless veterans

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Ed Ronders, director of Lapeer County Veterans Affairs, and Chris Teinert, caseworker and specialist with The Blue Water Center for Independent Living in Lapeer, talked about a program to help homeless veterans in the area during a county board meeting earlier this year. 
Photos by Andrew Dietderich Ed Ronders, director of Lapeer County Veterans Affairs, and Chris Teinert, caseworker and specialist with The Blue Water Center for Independent Living in Lapeer, talked about a program to help homeless veterans in the area during a county board meeting earlier this year. Photos by Andrew Dietderich LAPEER — While Memorial Day is intended to remember those who died serving our country, Chris Teinert wants to remind people to never forget veterans who survived — and now face homelessness.

Teinert is a caseworker and specialist with The Blue Water Center for Independent Living who works with Lapeer area veterans on “Project Home.”

In short, Project Home is a federally funded program that aims to provide supportive services to low-income veterans facing homelessness.

In the last year since Teinert has been on the job, he’s helped more than 20 local veterans.


The Blue Water Center for Independent Living’s local office is located at 393 W. Nepessing St. in downtown Lapeer. The Blue Water Center for Independent Living’s local office is located at 393 W. Nepessing St. in downtown Lapeer. “Our number one goal is housing first,” Teinert told The County Press. “We have too many veterans on the streets and one veteran is one too many to me.”

The Blue Water Center for Independent Living (BWCIL) was awarded a Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF) grant through the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs in 2013. Per grant requirements, BWCIL must assist a certain number of veterans annually in its large coverage area of Lapeer, Tuscola, St. Clair, Sanilac, and Huron counties (it also subcontracts in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties).

The downtown Lapeer branch is at 392 W. Nepessing St.

Project Home is the name of the program that works to help qualified veterans and their respective families secure housing, daily living needs, health care, transportation, legal aid, personal financial planning, and temporary financial assistance, such as time-limited payments for rent, utilities, security and utility deposits, and emergency supplies. The program can even help people get necessities, such as beds and bedding.

Project Home also can provide help to qualified veterans and their families if they are on the brink of homelessness, Teinert said, by essentially making them current on rent payments.

Teinert said he has helped local veterans ranging in age from “late 20s to late 50s” with the majority being Vietnam-era veterans.

The program is open to any person who has served in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States. Veterans need not have been stationed in a combat zone. The program is not available to those with dishonorable discharge.

To qualify, applicants must have served at least one day of active military service (other than training), meet certain income eligibility requirements, and be homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless.

Teinert said, by definition, “homeless” can mean “living in and out of motels, tents, parks, bus and train stations…pretty much wherever they put their head down for the night.”

Depending on number of dependents, Teinert said, the “intake” process can range from 45 to 90 minutes.

“The only time we will turn a veteran down is if, by policy and procedures, they don’t qualify,” Teinert said.

Once approved, Teinert said he gets to work with a goal of helping veterans find a place to live within two weeks, oftentimes working with area landlords to facilitate.

“I have never actually had a property manager turn me down,” Teinert said, speaking to the willingness of them to help struggling veterans and Project Home’s track record of making payments on-time.

In addition to helping secure housing, Teinert helps those with no income seek out help through various channels — such as career counseling at Michigan Works and/or other social service and financial assistance programs available at the state and federal levels.

Project Home also will coordinate with other agencies, such as Lapeer County Veterans Affairs and the Anka Akron Veterans Program in northern Tuscola County.

With regard to the actual process, Teinert said the goal is to make it as easy as possible, especially since it’s already a stressful situation for the veteran and veteran’s family.

Teinert said the number of veterans seeking assistance ebbs and flows with changing weather.

But even when it is nicer out, Teinert says he will go out into the Lapeer area community and try to find veterans who need help.

“A lot of times they’ll just pitch their tents and be good with that,” Teinert said. “But I’m not good with that. So a lot of times…I will go out and look around for veterans, pass out my cards.”

Teinert, 37, is a U.S. Army veteran with a degree in human services from Delta College.

Helping other veterans is important to him, he said, because of what is known as “The Army Warrior Ethos.”

Teinert explained that the “Warrior Ethos” states “I will place mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, and — the most important one that I look at our veterans with — I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

“That is how I look at Memorial Day and Labor Day and everything…we’ve got to remember all of our veterans,” he said.

Teinert presented a brief overview of Project Home to the Lapeer County Board of Commissioners earlier this year.

Ed Ronders, director of Lapeer County Veterans Affairs, said at the time that Project Home “fills a very valuable niche.”

“Probably, two weeks won’t go by where we’ll pick up the phone and call him and say ‘Hey we’ve got this issue with this veteran, here’s the situation, what can we do?’ and we brainstorm,” Ronders said.

“(Teinert) does a heckuva job,” Ronders said. “Like we are, he’s one piece of the puzzle — it doesn’t really matter where the veteran gets the help as long as they get the help.”

More information about Project Home may be obtained by calling 810-648-2555.

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