The second installment in our series on what they are doing for Veterans in Houston.
Author, Chris Gill
I recently had the opportunity to visit Camp Hope in Houston, Texas. This amazing place is run by the PTSD Foundation of America, to bring healing to Veterans and their families through pastoral counseling and peer mentoring. They are also passionate about raising awareness and building community-based networks to engage and support Veterans in transition. Camp Hope employs a comprehensive peer support model, in both one-on-one and group settings, that provides layered accountability and communal healing. Their faith-based approach helps Veterans to find the humility and desire to be taught and led by their brothers that have walked before them through the healing process.
The Veterans that come to Camp Hope have come to the end of themselves and have seen their need to be saved. Over the course of three to six months, they are engaged and led by mentors that have gone through the program. The mentors are in place to guide participants through a three phase program during their stay and to provide leadership, accountability, encouragement and empathy to those in their care.
Over the first thirty days the new Veterans enter the Blackout Phase. In this phase they have no communication or connectivity with the outside world. This Phase helps the Veteran find respite and prepares them to fully engage in the healing process. Also. It helps purge the anxieties and worries that keep them from being able to cope or access care. Next, Veterans enter the Red Phase. In this second phase they are allowed communication with loved ones, but are still focused on the process and tasks that keep them on the path to healing.
During both Phases, they are following a specific program of study that engages them in the Word and leads them through a process of grieving, accepting, and forgiving. Also, they are encouraged to begin to develop a narrative about their experiences. Program mentors explained that this narrative development process is crucial to the program’s success, because “telling one’s story is a large part of them finding healing and peace”.
In the daily life of these Veterans there is the ubiquitous “Blue Book” that guides them through the healing process. Entitled The Combat Trauma Healing Manual by Chris Adsit, this Blue Book provides the guiding principles that help the Veterans find healing through faith, accountability, humility and community. A daily fitness routine is another important aspect of the program, as “health of body and mind are inseparable”. All of this is bolstered by professional counseling sessions several times a week at an off Camp Hope campus location.
The final phase of the Program is referred to as the Transition Phase. During this time, the Veteran moves into a period of Post Traumatic Growth where they begin to evaluate what comes next. In this phase, with the help of the staff, they begin to find a new task and purpose in life. They are connected with a new path in life where they can enjoy themselves and are offered the opportunity to excel. They are supported in finding a job, enrolling in school or starting their own small business, while receiving valuable life skills training they may have never received in life or the military. This is important, as sometimes you find that basic life activities like managing a budget or shopping for their own groceries can be very nebulous for Veterans that have never really lived on their own.
There will be a time of preparation for the married Veterans and their families to begin reintegrating him into home life. This will often require a renegotiation of the spousal relationship and family dynamic as they all begin to learn with his new identity. It is not, and never can be, the goal to return the Veteran to who they were. Rather, it is crucial that the Veteran finds his new identity after being profoundly and fundamentally changed by their experiences in combat and, in turn, involvement in the healing process.
I left the Camp feeling inspired and energized. Camp Hope in Houston offers a unique service and program to our Veterans. All communities can learn from their work and how they impact Veteran’s lives.
Run by Veterans for Veterans, this refuge for healing and growth provides an atmosphere that reflects the best parts of the military. Structure, accountability, and camaraderie are the virtues that we often find missing in life after the military. Providing these, without recreating a military environment, is a great recipe for transitioning into civilian life. The great thing about their model is that it is effective and reproducible in other communities around the country.
In Alabama we boast the highest Veterans population percentage in the country, around 10% of our population Statewide is Veterans. Every day, I come face-to-face with the deep need for this kind of resource in our own State. I am sure you’ve seen the need for something like this as well.
Please let me know if you have any questions about Camp Hope or their work.
I encourage you to follow us as we continue our work for Veterans in Alabama. Personally, I plan on working in the community to lay the foundations for our own version of Camp Hope that will meet the unique needs of the Alabama Veteran.