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New transitional housing and program to offer hope to struggling veterans

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SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) -

For some who serve our country, coming home and transitioning back into everyday life can be a struggle. A new national program to provide temporary housing and life skills has been launched for vets suffering from chronic mental illness, chemical dependency, and homelessness. 

It was unveiled locally Thursday at the W. G. "Bill" Hefner Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Salisbury. 

"When I talk to a vet, a combat vet that's been in Vietnam, we automatically have that connection," Raphael D'Ausilio told WBTV.   "We know, when helicopter blades fly overhead, we have that same anxiety, we can relate to it."

D'Ausilio is a Vietnam combat veteran, but he had to fight another battle when he came home.

"For me it was PTSD, anxiety, depression, and I've recovered from that."

He now serves as a Peer Support Specialist in the VA's Compensated Work Therapy Program.

The Transitional Residence (TR) program is a work-based Psychosocial Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program offering a therapeutic residential setting for veterans involved in Compensated Work Therapy (CWT). The TR program provides a rehabilitation-focused residential setting for veterans recovering from chronic mental illness, chemical dependency and homelessness. 

TR provides a bridge between hospitalization or intensive outpatient treatment and successful community reintegration. It utilizes a residential therapeutic community of peer and professional support, with a strong emphasis on increasing personal responsibility and achievement of individualized rehabilitation goals.

"The idea is to build some skills, get comfortable being able to managing work and their mental health and able to move themselves out into the community with a competitive job and in their own housing," Tara Manis-Healey of the Veteran's Administration told WBTV.  "Our goal is to treat the veteran holistically, so instead of just giving them a house and having a roof over their head, our goal is to work on their vocational peace, help them with mental health stuff, as well as independent living skills."

In the meantime, they can live in new transitional housing on the hospital campus. It will be home to house managers, and 8 veterans at a time.

"They come here, live for about six months," Manis-Healey added. "They save some money, learn how to cook, budgeting skills, what's a good lease to get, and hopefully move out into their own independent living."

Horace Beck will be among the first to move into the new housing on the Salisbury campus.

"I think it's a very beautiful place, I think it's very nice I'm so glad to have this opportunity to be one of the veterans who is able to stay here," Beck, a veteran of U.S. Army said.  "I think this house will establish in many of us the values of living again."

It's convenient because it's in short walking distance to doctor's appointments, but it's also a bridge from hospitalization or intense therapy, to living back in the community. This is where those vets who are struggling can get help from those who have walked the same path.

"Even if they were to get a job that was successful, they'd be going back into an environment where there would be substance abuse in the home perhaps, so back to friends, so this is a controlled environment.  This is an area that perhaps, they can come back here, feel safe, there with other veterans, it really provides every opportunity for the veteran to succeed," D'Ausilio added.

And that's the goal after all, to help these heroes who have left the battlefield behind to find their place in the nation they defended.

This program differs from other VA-operated residential bed programs in that participants contribute using their work therapy earnings to the cost of operating and maintaining their residences and are responsible for planning, purchasing and preparing their own meals.

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