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VA San Diego Homeless Program Puts Vets Back To Work

The seal of the Department of Veterans Affairs is seen on the building in Was...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: The seal of the Department of Veterans Affairs is seen on the building in Washington, Friday, June 21, 2013.

The VA San Diego plans to expand a program to keep homeless veterans off the streets.

Giana Fimbres is a Gulf War veteran from Arizona. Nearly five years ago, she found herself homeless in San Diego.

“When I came out of the military I thought, 'I’m fine, I got this,'" Fimbres said. "Then, come to find out I was diagnosed with PTSD.”

That’s how she eventually came into the Veterans Health Administration Career Assisted Therapy program. One of several programs used by the VA to target homelessness among vets.

“I was just letting myself go," she said. "I just did not care about myself anymore. I just didn’t feel good about myself and I think that’s how I ended up that way.”

Two weeks ago, she got her first full-time job in years, working as a Medical Support Assistant at VA San Diego.

“I’m still on cloud 9," she said. "I’m still floating.”

The program is designed to bring people into the workforce who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, or have some physical or mental health issue that may have kept them out of the workforce for years.

“Work is an essential part of a person’s well being," said Mark Natividad, vocational rehabilitation specialist at VA San Diego. "You know, it’s important to mental health, physical health. And it just improves the overall person.”

Roughly 100 veterans are in the program locally. Some only need minimal help writing resume’s and updating computer skills.

Fimbres was part of more intense training to relearn basics skills.

“At first we make poppies," she said. "Those little red flowers that you see them give out. We make those. And that’s the first part of our training. So we can learn to get along with others in an environment of getting back to work."

While clients often find jobs in the community, the training happens only at VA. Natividad said VA San Diego is looking for partners who might want to work with some of these vets as they learn their way back into the workforce.

Reported by Kris Arciaga

The VA San Diego's Career Assisted Therapy is designed to bring veterans back into the workforce after they have a grappled with a disability or mental illness.

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