Hines Homeless Work Hotline: 708-202-4961. You can call if you are a veteran or know a veteran who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and needs help, according to Hines VA officials.
“Anonymity is an opportunity to just call and say, ‘This is happening to me, I need help.’ And then we come to you, ”explained Joseph Ader, head of social work at Hines VA Hospital.
After a call to the hotline is made, Hines VA officials say the goal is to reach the veteran within 24 hours, no matter where they are. They may be in a friend’s house or possibly live in a tent or their car.
“We need to approach that and meet them where they are,” said Mark Marroquin, a social worker on Hines ’information work who often makes first contact. “If they’re not ready for that, we want to be a helping hand that we’re still here for, even if you’re not ready.”
About a month ago, Morocco was the first VA social worker to help Bianca Tolbert, an army veteran who went on a one-year tour of Iraq in 2007.
Tolbert said past injuries surfaced after her service in Iraq. During the tour, she said she was attacked by a higher-ranking member.
“I was eventually discharged because I faced MST, a military sexual trauma,” Tolbert said. “And I ended up leaving. From there, I guess it all started.”
Tolbert returned home to Chicago and by 2019 had three sons. In November 2019, her eldest son Duke, who was 15 at the time, committed suicide. Duke was only 1 year old when she served in Iraq.
“My son died in 2019. A couple of months later, COVID suffered,” she said. “When my son died, I found him.”
Bianca said her depression had recently bottomed out.
“I didn’t get out of bed. I didn’t take a shower. I didn’t take care of my children,” she said.
“What if I don’t get out of bed?” She remembered what she was thinking. “If I can’t get up, I can’t work, I can’t make a living, and if I don’t get out of bed and I just get stuck in depression? I’ll be homeless.”
A month ago, she called the Hines Homeless Hotline.
“I didn’t feel embarrassed or intimidated by the long process when you had to do it or you had to do it. I felt like I was in the right place at the right time,” Tolbert said.
“This number is a great number that you can just give to a veteran, even if they’re not sure enough to call. I’ve seen people call on behalf of a veteran,” Marrokin said.
Hines VA officials said they have more than 20 mental health treatment programs.
In 2021, about 57,000 veterans received medical care at Hines VA and our six community clinics. Of those 57,000, about 20,000 were also enrolled in psychoneurological care, and about 2,200 received assistance under the Hines Homeless Program, Ader said.
Hines VA officials report that the number of homeless veterans is declining when compared to 2021 and 2011.
“The reason we’ve achieved this is that all of these initiatives within the VA are for the rapid admission of veterans, regardless of sobriety, regardless of mental health,” Ader said.
Now Bianca and her family are in housing, and with treatment she is improving.
“I can be Bianca again. It’s nice to really feel like being able to touch myself old, be myself and be the mom I want to be,” Tolbert said. “No matter what, I have a wonderful life.”
Again, the Homeless Hotline 708-202-4961
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