Traverse City Record-Eagle

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August 15, 2013

Local agency is seeking to help homeless vets

TRAVERSE CITY — Dennis Hyland was a bit cold when he left Charlevoix County Jail last November, clad in the same clothes he went in with — a polo shirt and a pair of shorts.

Hyland, who had never had so much as a speeding ticket, was surprised when he was picked up and jailed for 90 days in August for failing to pay $442 in child support for his twin, teen daughters.

“I didn’t know there was a bench warrant,” he said, “because the lock on our mailbox had been broken for 30 days.”

During his jail time he lost everything — his job, apartment, furniture, and even his car, which was towed and used in a fire exercise by Petoskey firefighters.

Now Hyland, 52, who served in the Air Force for nearly 13 years, is back on his feet, thanks to kind relatives and a host of services that aim to help veterans.

One of the newest sources of help is Supportive Services for Veteran Families, funded by the Veterans Administration, which provided more than $600,000 to northern Michigan this year to assist veterans in the 21-county area.

The Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency is administering the program and wants to get out the word. To date, it has helped 178 veterans and their families and has funds to do more. The program will pay the security deposit and first month’s rent for veterans, said Melodie Linebaugh, NMCAA’s homeless programs manager.

“We also provide supportive services,” she said. “If you have a bad water pump in the car, and it’s stopping you from making money, that’s a barrier to work and a place to live. So we may help get the car fixed.”

After getting out of jail, Hyland’s uncle bought him some winter clothes and a cell phone. Hyland moved to Traverse City to stay at the Goodwill since Petoskey doesn’t have a homeless shelter. Then he sought out help from area agencies, including the Veteran’s Administration office and Michigan Works.

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