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Social Work intern helps homeless veteran reunite with family after 22 years

Posted Aug. 18, 2016
Reported by: Laurie Anderson,

Marissa Jones and Patrice Green
L-R: Marissa Jones and Patrice Green hold commemorative coins presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Marissa Jones (MSW ’16) helped to make a real difference in the life of a homeless veteran. As an intern in Atlanta in 2015 with Health Care for Homeless Veterans, a program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, she helped to reunite a veteran with his family after a separation of 22 years. Her work earned her a commendation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The veteran had been living in parks and homeless shelters but was battling mental illness and had lost his identification, which was needed to receive federal assistance.

“All he could remember were his mother and sister's name and what state they lived in the last time he saw them (22 years ago),” said Jones, who graduated in May 2016. “I suggested we search on Facebook. My supervisor, Patrice Green, gave me permission, and I found three people who I thought could be his relatives (based off of what he told us). I drafted up a message, got it approved and sent it to them. They called the next day and within a month they were reunited.”

Jones and Green were among a group of Veterans Administration staff who were honored for their work in July at the Disabled American Veterans National Convention.

"They didn’t just house their homeless veteran; they worked on their own for nearly a year to find his family," U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald told the audience.

Jones now works full time with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ HUD-VASH program, which provides permanent housing for eligible homeless veterans. She plans to earn her LCSW and provide therapy for military families and children.

"I also have plans to one day start a non-profit, working with women empowerment," she said.