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september/october 2007

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As the Chair of VVA’s Homeless Veterans Task Force, I was pleased to announce the first recipient of the Bobby J. Award at the National Convention in Springfield.
Melvin Colston graduated from Edison High School in June 1966. On August 21, 1968, he enlisted in the Army. He was sent to Vietnam on April 30, 1969. SP4 Colston served as a convoy runner with MACV. He left Vietnam on March 22, 1970. Upon returning from Vietnam, Colston got married.

In February 1997, after almost two years of living on the streets of Philadelphia, Colston entered the Substance Abuse Treatment Unit at the Coatesville VA Medical Center. When he completed that program, he moved on to the Homeless Domiciliary Program and completed a 90-day program.

On June 16, 1997, Melvin Colston became the first resident of LZ II Transitional Residence, a program of the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service & Education Center. LZ II is a transitional residence under the VA Homeless Grant and Per Diem Program, where homeless veterans may live for up to two years. On February 1, 1998, Colston was hired as a resident manager on a temporary basis. Upon his successful completion of the program on June 16, 1999, he was offered a permanent position as the on-site supervisor of LZ II.

Over the course of his ten years at LZ II, Colston has continued to be a very strong and positive influence on all who enter the doors. His commitment to his recovery and helping new residents is above reproach. He has become a mentor, a teacher, and a beacon of strength. His own growth and determination are obvious to all who know him. He has regained his self-worth, his pride, and most of all, his family.

His dedication to his God and his attention to his recovery have resulted in a most phenomenal transformation. Through his determination, he has come from hopelessness and helplessness into a new life. Thousands of veterans see his success as an inspiration. It is with pleasure that I was able to present this award to Melvin Colston, along with a life membership in VVA.

During the Convention, resolutions dealing with homeless veterans were presented and voted on by the delegates. Major steps are being taken by the VA Homeless Grant and Per Diem Program Office to re-vamp the program and the manner in which non-profit agencies are paid for services. Having been reappointed Chair by VVA President John Rowan, I look forward to moving to address the needs of our nation’s homeless veterans. Much work remains to be done and working in a collaborative effort with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, we hope to accomplish great things.


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