CLEVELAND (WJW) – “In the Marine Corps everything was quick, fast go, go, go, go, go.”
Six years as a Marine gave 27-year-old Travina Edwards a lifetime of memories.
“I joined because I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to make a change and stand up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves,” said Edwards. “Every day when I put on that uniform, I was a superhero.”
But, the transition from a superhero to a civilian was not easy.
“Oh man it was hard,” said Edwards. “I’m being treated for PTSD.”
Edwards said the initial struggle ended her military career and she began to spiral with thoughts of self-harm.
“At a certain point in my life the things I’ve experienced in the military were a little too much for me to bear so I thought that removing myself was the best answer,” said Edwards.
Nearing the end of her PTSD treatment, Edwards got mental health and housing support through the national non-profit Volunteers of America Ohio and Indiana.
“Over six thousand veterans commit suicide in a year and it’s one and a half times the normal suicide rate,” said Kathleen Atkins, Senior Vice President of Program Operations at Volunteers of America Ohio and Indiana.
The non-profit just received a federal $750,000 federal grant for mental health and suicide prevention.
“It permeates all areas of their life so if it goes unaddressed, we see things like veterans being homeless,” said Atkins.
Atkins said their latest venture is one of a kind in Cleveland.
“We consider it an honor and privilege to serve those who served us,” said Atkins.
The Judge Sarah J. Harper Village opens in November. The twelve studio apartments will be home to women veterans, providing affordable, permanent housing.
“We charge fair market rent, and we base that on the neighborhood, and we pay for all utilities,” said Atkins. “We will completely furnish the apartments.”
Volunteers of America said its goal behind the new veteran’s village opening in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood is to support the most underserved group of the veteran population, homeless and traumatized female veterans.
The mental health crisis facing veterans impacts every aspect of their lives Atkins said with many choosing to live on the land or street because it feels safer.
“The ladies are so excited to have a place that is brand new that’s built with them in mind and the opportunity to be someplace safe and secure where people will care about their well-being,” said Atkins.
“Being in an all-female led facility would basically help with women being able to support each other as well as if they experienced a traumatic experience with sexual assault — it makes it easier for them to be able to integrate and support one another,” said Edwards.
Getting support in time from family and resources from Volunteers of America among other veteran-focused organizations is the reason Edwards said she came back from the brink. Now she is focused on her next mission, recovery.
“I’m in a much better place now,” said Edwards. I’m moving to the end of my treatment. It’s just on the up and up I’m growing.”