Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
VA, Community Help Veteran Overcome Homelessness
In 2007, Air Force Veteran Ginny Alyias was ready to move out of her apartment and buy a home for herself and her son in Tulsa.
After working for a school system in Tulsa for nearly 12 years as a boiler plant operator and custodian, she had saved up enough money for a down payment on a house.
But to finance her home, she took on a risky mortgage with an adjustable rate mortgage. She also stretched her budget and ended up paying more per month than she had originally wanted.
“My payments weren’t locked in,” said Alyias. “I really had no credit. So when it came to buying a house, I was kind of at the mercy of the people who were selling the house.”
About a year after she bought the home, the school system decided to close the boiler plant at the school she had worked at for eight years, and would instead install a new heating system.
Alyias was given the option to remain with the school system, but with a cut in pay. She would also have to work in a float position and travel to schools throughout the district.
“They would send me to schools that still had boiler plants and to schools that were insufficiently staffed,” she said. “There wasn’t really anything else I could do.”
Then in late 2008, her mortgage was sold to another lender who increased her interest rate and thus her monthly payments.
At this time, Alyias also fought a collection for a personal debt and hired an attorney. She ultimately lost and the expense set her back $2,000.
“I had a bill that went through garnishment and it was a surprise,” she said. “They took too much of my income.”
She was no longer able to pay her mortgage and in January 2009, the lender foreclosed on her home. Alyias and her son moved to a motel.
“It was a nice motel and I was still going to work,” said Alyias.
But the stress of her housing and work situation mounted and ultimately, her work performance suffered.
“When I did start floating, instead of keeping me in the schools right close to me, I would be sent way east or north where it would be a hardship for me to get there,” she said.
In September 2009, Alyias had car trouble and was fired for being late to work.
“They had probable cause,” said Alyias. “I guess the stress of my personal situation was beginning to affect my job. It was just one of those times where one thing piled onto another and it caused it to cascade.”
After Alyias ran out of money, her son went to live with her ex-husband and she lived in her car for a month.
“I didn’t want to admit to my family I was in the situation that I was in,” she said.
Her brother found out about her situation and asked her to move in with his family.
VA, Tulsa Community Provide Assistance
Alyias then went to the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic in Tulsa where she receives her health care. She talked with VA staff about her situation and was immediately put in touch with the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System (EOVAHCS) Homeless Program.
Alyias received a housing voucher from the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program and was able to move into an apartment with her son.
VA staff in the Homeless Program also helped her rewrite her resume and helped her get connected with VA programs and services in the local community.
Michelle Bachelor, a VA Social Worker, helped her apply for VA’s Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, and Alyias received money to take classes at Tulsa Community College.
Bachelor also helped her received Dental Care in the community and helped her apply for a temporary work placement program with the Department of Labor. Alyias worked for AARP, the University of Oklahoma, Goodwill and Tulsa Public Schools as a Teacher’s Aid.
“Our support to homeless Veterans is a knitting together of VA and community resources, and fortunately we have terrific programs in the community,” said Bachelor.
“The Homeless Program is designed to help folks address the issues that led to their homelessness or to give them additional support so that they can stabilize and move forward to the point where they don’t need us, except for that temporary period of time.”
After receiving assistance for two and a half years from the HUD-VASH, Alyias decided she was ready to stand on her own two feet.
“I was ready to get off,” said Alyias. “I really needed the help but I also needed to stand on my own two feet.”
Finding a New Home
Then Alyias received news that VA had approved her disability rating appeal for a head injury she suffered while serving in the Air Force.
With an increase in VA disability compensation, Alyias was able to purchase a condo in Tulsa in March 2016. But this time, she participated in the VA Home Loan Program and has a fixed interest rate and fixed mortgage payment.
“I feel very much more settled and hopeful that I can improve and have a good life,” said Alyias. “I don’t have to worry, ‘are they going to come and take this one from me.’”
Grateful for the support she has received from VA, Alyias now encourages other Veterans to reach out to VA for help.
“When you are homeless, you are also helpless,” said Alyias. “The VA Homeless Program shows you opportunities that are out there to help you. You just have to be willing to accept the help.”