Eugene Oregon veteran Steven Vann found himself homeless last March for the first time in life.

After a short time at the Eugene Gospel Mission, Vann said St. Vincent de Paul helped him begin to turn his life around.

“We get housing for up to two years – no rent, no utilities – for us to get back into society, work on our past issues that we never dealt with before ,and become a productive member of the community and society as a whole,” Vann said while on a break from making a cabinet for theLane County Historical Society Museum where he works as a handyman.

A landlord-tenant dispute between St. Vincent de Paul and a Navy veteran about whether the veteran could hang an American flag in a common area at his apartment complex blew up into a national story before the two sides reached an agreement. St. Vincent asked Edward Zivica to provide them with a list of dates in advance.

Zivica has since said he holds no ill will towards St. Vincent and told KVAL News he wants people to stop calling and harrassing the property manager.

But some people upset about the now-resolved dispute have still threatened not to support the non-profit – a move which would actually hurt veterans in Lane County.

“Our stance has never changed. We respect and honor our vets, and I’m really sorry that anything could have offended that veteran community,” said Terry McDonald, director of St. Vincent de Paul. “The most important thing is that we want to make sure those services keep going, and we’ll do everything in our power to make sure that they do.”

Vann said he was drinking alone, unemployed and headed nowhere fast when he sought help from St. Vincent’s de Paul. Now he has both a place to live and a job through St. Vincent’s Vet LIFT program, which helps vets find services beyond housing such as counseling, jobs and support networks.

“It’s meant getting off the streets, out of the mission and getting some self-esteem back that I’d lost because of being homeless,” Vann said. The Vet LIFT program means “being in a positive environment and having positive people that were supporting me,” he added.

Vann said when he first heard about the flag controversy, he was frustrated. But after learning the details of the situation, he said St. Vincent was in the right.

He said Zivica and all the men who live in the transitional units signed a contract, and that Zivica should have checked with administration before breaking the original agreement.

“And I’m really sad that people called in angry, threatening calls towards St Vincent. They don’t deserve that,” said Vann.

But McDonald is just sorry the whole matter hurt the veteran community.

Whether or not the backlash will effect St. Vincent’s ability to continue helping vets the way they have “is still up to the court of public opinion,” said McDonald.

“And hopefully this will be in the past,” Vann said, “and people will realize that St Vincent De Paul is there for us: the veterans.”


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