By Patricia Beech –
Facing hot summer days without air conditioning in your home can be a grueling experience. But what if you don’t have a home?
The number of homeless people tends to spike during the summer months, and people are often left to survive the dangers of extreme summer weather on their own because they don’t know where to turn for help.
According to Holly Johnson, Director of the Adams County Office of Economic Development, many people who have the greatest need are often unaware of the range of resources available to them.
“We need to be advocates for these people, especially the elderly and veterans” Johnson said. “If one organization is unable to provide assistance, there are other avenues we can go through to get them help.”
Such was the case for Bruce DeBord, 62, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and National Guard who recently faced an eviction that would have left him homeless. Unsure where to turn for help, he reached out to the Veterans Services (VS) office in West Union.
Even though VS does not provide housing assistance for veterans, the agency’s Transportation Officer, John McAdow, stepped in to assist DeBord.
“John said he would check and see what might be available to me, and I told him the different things I’d checked on in the past,” said DeBord. “John talked to Jobs and Family Services to see what they could do, and they said I could get housing if I applied early for my Social Security, and so I did.”
McAdow was also instrumental in helping a 76 year-old U.S. Army veteran who needed an air conditioning unit for his home. Archie “Mike” Dawson said he had never before gone to the Veterans Services asking for help. “John helped us find grant money to have our air conditioner replaced,” said Dawson. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciated what he did for us.”
McAdow said he felt both mens’ situations required immediate action: “It takes a lot for a veteran to ask for help and get turned down,” he said. “I felt I had to do whatever I could to help.”
McAdow says he believes his actions should be the standard procedure when a veteran comes to the VS for assistance. “Bruce and Mike needed help, and all I did was pursue solutions for them,” he said. “Helping them meant something,”
McAdow used the Standard Resources Book for Adams County to find help for the two veterans.
According to Johnson, the resource book provides information about several programs which offer emergency assistance such as the Interfaith House, Adult Protective Services, and Jobs and Family Services. However, she says the resource book does not cover the entire spectrum of programs available to those in need.
“Every year we get new services, so many we can’t keep up with them,” said Johnson. “We need to get that data pulled together in a community service booklet of some kind that explains what the different county agencies have to offer to people in need of help.”
McAdow’s actions were widely praised by many including Commissioner Stephen Caraway.
“John McAdow is a fine example of what a public servant should be because he goes above and beyond his call of duty to help those in need,” said Caraway. “He dramatically changed the lives of people who were in the shadows and needed help in their darkest hour. John took just a little bit of his time and a little bit of his effort and made a difference. That’s what public service should be about – if you see someone hurting, you try to help them.”
McAdow, who has since resigned from his position with the Veterans Service office. says he was given a job description that restricted his ability to assist his fellow veterans in a meaningful way.
“The ultimate goal should be to help the veterans,” he said. “I’d like to be there, but not under the restraint of a job description, because to me the important thing is to help veterans any way we can.”
Bill Conn, President of the board at Veterans Services said that when veterans come into their office for help they’re referred to whatever agency can address their needs. “Our job is to tell them where they can get help, we’re not supposed to do the leg work for them. That’s the policy in all 88 Ohio counties,” he said. “John McAdow was hired as our Transportation Officer, and he shouldn’t have been doing what he was doing, it wasn’t his job.”
While Veterans Services may be restricted by rules and regulations, both DeBord and Dawson say they would have been at a loss if McAdow hadn’t stepped in.
“I just wasn’t aware that there was anything like that out there to help,” said Dawson. “And I understand that John is no longer with the organization, and I hate that that happened, but I really appreciate his helping us.”
DeBord says he believes McAdow was “doing what you’d expect from someone in his position”, as an employee at Veterans Services. “It seemed like John was being conscientious, just trying to help somebody out, and to me that seems like the definition of veteran services.”
Caraway agreed, saying, “I can’t talk enough about folks like John. That’s why we’re here at the end of the day, if we’re confined by a job description, if we fail to help someone because our job description doesn’t match that, shame on us. If someone needs help, take a few minutes and help them.”
Caraway says he believes it is necessary to streamline the assistance process by opening lines of communication between social service organizations. “Different levels of government offer different programs to help, and I’m a big believer in bringing people together to talk about what they have to offer to those in need.”