Veterans Voice: Local orgs help homeless veterans find stable housing, health care

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — When Frederick Williams left the Navy after the Vietnam War, he thought that the hardest parts of his life were behind him.

While in the Navy, Williams cleaned contaminated equipment and replenished two fleets with oils, bombs, missiles and other supplies. He returned to his home of Atlanta ready to move forward with his life.

But in the years after the war, Williams said he battled alcohol and anger issues. After a failed relationship left him without a permanent residence, he stayed with friends — until they faced foreclosures on their homes. He ended up homeless in Atlanta, he said.

“I went into the survival mode, and I survived through many situations,” said Williams. “I said, ‘It’s not going to last always.’”

Williams experienced bouts of homelessness for 10 years. Down on his luck, he said he turned to a local church, which recommended he get out of Atlanta.

“I really wanted to conquer it at the time because it was getting to be too much,” Williams said.

In January, the congregation bought Williams a one-way ticket to Columbus. After struggling to afford a place at $200 a week, he was introduced to Volunteers of America, a nonprofit that helps people secure affordable housing. The organization has provided Williams a free place to stay.

It was Williams’ case manager at Volunteers of America that introduced him to who he called his “angel”: Jose Feliciano, the manager for PrimaryOne Health’s “Healthcare for the Homeless” program.

Feliciano said PrimaryOne Health provides health care services to homeless people in central Ohio. Individuals can receive medical, vision and dental care at no cost. The organization also helps with transportation to appointments and referrals for substance use disorder treatment and behavioral health services.

Feliciano doesn’t consider himself an angel, but he appreciates helping those in need.

“Not everyone can express their gratitude, so when someone actually does open up and appreciate the effort, the conversation, the dialogue and the assistance — that’s more than a pat on the back,” Feliciano said.

With access to health care — and his own apartment — Williams said he’s making strides.

“I’ve come this far, and I can’t turn back now,” Williams said. “I’d be a fool to turn back.”

PrimaryOne Health’s main number is 614-645-5500. To connect with “Healthcare for the Homeless,” call 614-645-0521.