Service groups honor St. Vincent for assisting homeless veterans

News Photo by Darby Hinkley On Wednesday, a framed certificate of appreciation was presented and a celebration held to honor the workers at St. Vincent de Paul store and food pantry in Alpena for their efforts helping homeless veterans. Pictured above, from left to right, are Cathy McClure, St. Vincent pantry coordinator, Melodie Linebaugh, homeless programs manager with Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency, Sheri Allen, St. Vincent store manager, John Zangoulas, Supportive Services for Veteran Families housing resource specialist with NMCAA, Tracy Hampson, housing intake worker for Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency, and Art Ohlrich, veterans justice outreach specialist and Healthcare for Homeless Veterans case manager for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

ALPENA — It’s not easy to ask for help, but help is what these community groups do for homeless veterans.

Veterans service groups honored leaders at St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store on Wednesday afternoon for their role in assisting homeless veterans by providing food, clothing, furniture and housewares for those in need.

“This is what we’re here for,” said Sheri Allen, St. Vincent store manager. “These guys come in with nothing. My heart aches for them.”

A framed certificate of appreciation was presented to Allen by John Zangoulas, Supportive Services for Veteran Families housing resource specialist with Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency.

“We have VA grant money to help with veterans who are literally homeless, or veterans who are potentially facing homelessness,” Zangoulas said. “And many times this past year I’ve had veterans who had literally nothing, where I’d get them an apartment or a place to live, and they’ve had no belongings other than maybe their clothes, and I’ll bring them here and Sheri will allow us to go through and pretty much furnish their place with the basic necessities.”

Veterans benefit greatly from the help of St. Vincent.

“Their generosity has just been awesome,” he said.

He added that the food pantry has helped those veterans stock up to fill the cupboards in their new homes as well.

“This past year, we’ve had a real influx of veterans that have moved to the area that have had nothing,” Zangoulas added.

“Last year, we helped 158 veterans, and the year before we helped 226,” said Melodie Linebaugh, homeless programs manager with NMCAA. “That’s for the whole 23 counties.”

Zangoulas added that he handles five counties, including Alpena.

“We want to let the community know that their donations to St. Vincent’s are very appreciated,” he added.

Following the presentation, cake was enjoyed by attendees and offered to workers and shoppers at the thrift store.

Others participating in the celebration and presentation included Cathy McClure, St. Vincent pantry coordinator, Tracy Hampson, housing intake worker for Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency (NEMCSA), and Art Ohlrich, veterans justice outreach specialist and Healthcare for Homeless Veterans case manager for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“A lot of times the veterans don’t step up because they don’t feel like they should take help,” Linebaugh said. “They don’t want to have assistance. … So a lot of times it’s people ­– neighbors, friends, family members — that say, ‘Hey, why don’t we find someone who can help you?'”

If you or someone you know is a veteran in need of housing assistance, call NEMCSA at 989-358-4678. Veterans in crisis can call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential help at 1-800-273-8255.