When Joe* raised his hand during a meeting for Cuyahoga Community College’s Veterans Upward Bound program, the guest presenter and Tim Grealis, an Air Force veteran and lead specialist on United Way 2-1-1’s Help 2 Veterans line, assumed the gentleman had a question. But when called on, Joe simply gestured toward Tim and declared, “this man saved my life.”
In the six months since 2-1-1 launched Help 2 Veterans, the service has assisted nearly 6,000 individuals. Organized by Ohio Means Jobs (previously Employment Connection) with funding from the Cuyahoga County Council, Help 2 Veterans is a specialized information and referral (I&R) program designed to help veterans, active military personnel, reservists, National Guard members and their families connect with resources ranging from food and shelter to employment and medical care.
When Joe called 2-1-1 on January 16, 2014, he had been violently assaulted and forcibly removed from his home into bone-chilling 15 degree weather. An acquaintance discovered Joe shivering on the street and suggested the now-homeless veteran call United Way 2-1-1.
Tim (pictured right) received Joe’s call – transferred by a 2-1-1 I&R specialist who thought he could benefit from personalized guidance from a fellow veteran – and listened as the freezing man explained he could not return home for fear of further abuse, but did not have bus fare to reach the VA Medical Center. By a miraculous coincidence, the Cleveland Foundation was sponsoring free RTA rides on January 16, which Tim informed Joe about before getting his contact information and wishing him luck at the VA.
Tim called Joe the next day, but his phone was disconnected.
It could have been an uncertain ending to a sad story if it was not for the Homeless Stand Down, where Tim, who was staffing a United Way 2-1-1 table, was approached by an unfamiliar man who introduced himself as Joe. He shared he was living at a local men’s shelter. And Tim told Joe about Tri-C’s Veteran’s Upward Bound program.
Joe still resides at a shelter; he’s enrolled in classes at Tri-C, and is learning a trade in hopes of securing employment. He summarized his experience in a testimonial entitled, “the coldest days of my life” where he states, “had it not been for Tim, I really believe I would not have survived.”
Any of 2-1-1’s I&R specialists will agree no two calls are the same. While it’s true the situations and needs of every caller differ, in the case of Help 2 Veterans, the callers have one thing in common: they all served our country. And Help 2 Veterans was created to ensure these deserving men and women have somewhere to turn when need arises in their lives. If you are a veteran in need of social, health and government resources in Cuyahoga County, please call United Way 2-1-1.
*Name was changed to conceal identity