Covering Louisiana

Jan 21, 2013 11:58 AM by AP

Shreveport center helps veterans adjust

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Cliff Malone will watch his home rise on a lot in Shreveport's Stoner Hill neighborhood this spring.

He's one of four formerly homeless veterans who'll benefit from the Fuller Center for Housing's newest project. Rocker Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd fame, donated $300,000. Waters supports several efforts to help combat veterans adjust to civilian life.

Malone, 44, served in the Gulf and Iraq wars and briefly in Afghanistan before his discharge. After the Gulf War, he tried to keep his post-traumatic stress disorder at bay with alcohol and drugs.

"I grew up in a small town, and when I was a kid, if we saw someone back from war, my mom would say, 'Don't mess with him. He's shell-shocked'," Malone recalled. "When I realized I was 'shell-shocked' I thought I would be treated as an outcast. I kept it to myself."

Addiction led to homelessness until another veteran encouraged Malone to seek help. He entered an addiction and PTSD treatment program at Overton Brooks Veterans Affairs Hospital in Shreveport in 2010.

Now he manages HOPE House, a day shelter for the homeless in Shreveport. An average of 100 people drop by the shelter each day to take a shower, check mail or sign up for case management services.

"I can understand where they're coming from," Malone said.

News of his new home came at a time when he was struggling to set long-term goals.

"Of course there'll be a mortgage, but it was like a burden lifted," he said. "It's motivated me. It let me know that all of this work is not in vain."

He's already planning a backyard garden with tomatoes, peppers, squash and okra.

"I like being outside," Malone said, grinning. "I'm a country boy."

Veterans must go through a screening process and complete a transitional housing program offered by the Volunteers of America of Northwest Louisiana. Other agencies, including the Renesting Project, will help build and furnish the houses.

Faced with a lack of affordable apartments and rental houses, veterans sometimes end up back on the streets, said Lee Jeter, Fuller Center executive director.

"It's all part of a collaborative effort," Jeter said. "That's one of the things we've emphasized from the beginning. We knew that individuals coming out of the VOA program would need some type of permanent housing. We really try to close that gap."

The Fuller Center for Housing needs volunteers beginning March 6 to build its first four "Veterans Village" homes in Shreveport. The organization also is seeking donations and materials for the project. Volunteers can register or get more information by calling 318-865-1237.

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