Rachel and Gianna gain financial assistance, education, and a home
When Rachel Ku left the Air Force in 2013 after twelve years of service, she had mixed feelings. She was excited to return to Evansville and be with her young daughter Gianna, but hesitant about returning to civilian life. She was concerned that the transition would be hard because of the difficult times she experienced during her service. (Rachel was deployed three times in both Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and suffered many injuries.) Unfortunately, she was right in being worried, and in November 2015 Rachel and her six-year-old became homeless.
Thankfully, they were able to find shelter at the House of Bread & Peace family shelter in Evansville. While there, Rachel sought extra help and found Volunteers of America of Indiana's Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. She thought that this could be the springboard she needed. So she contacted them to see if she was eligible, and Heather Meredith confirmed their eligibility. Rachel and Gianna excitedly enrolled in the program with Heather as their case manager, and together they set out as a team to end their period of homelessness.
First, Heather helped Rachel find veteran benefits available to her that she was not aware of. For example, Heather helped Rachel apply for financial assistance from the Military Family Relief Fund (MFRF) and the American Legion. Rachel was ecstatic when both organizations awarded her money and she received about $4,500. These funds enabled Rachel to search for an apartment since it would pay for first month's rent and a security deposit.
"It was a battle-hardened journey, but we made it!"
That wasn't enough for Rachel, though. She knew that was a good temporary fix, but she was looking towards the future. She wanted to address how she could improve her employment options and start a stable career. So Rachel reached out to a Veterans Representative at the University of Southern Indiana (USI), and discovered that she was eligible to use a GI Bill to obtain a Master's Degree. Rachel began taking classes in May 2016 at USI and is currently working towards a Master's Degree in Program Management. Rachel also received a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) as part of the GI Bill, which can be used towards rent and utility expenses.Then, after a lot of hard work and searching, the happy day arrived. On April 15, 2016, Rachel and Gianna moved into their new home with help from the Tri-State Honor Flight Team. Now it looks like Rachel and Gianna have made a stable enough foundation to never be homeless again. In Rachel's own words: "It was a battle-hardened journey, but we made it!"