How the M.A.S.H. Program is Honoring Our Veterans, Part 1

Last Updated by Kate Spears on

Join WCTE’s Cindy Putman on the Get Ready To Learn radio show as she has a conversation with special co-host Carla Mohammad Lawson. Carla is the SSVF Outreach Coordinator for Mission Accomplished: Stable Housing (the acronym for this program is MASH) through Volunteer Behavioral Health. Carla has been working with a group of individuals in Cookeville, Tennessee to replicate a program that the city of Chattanooga successfully implemented to re-house veterans who are homeless.

Issues of Homelessness Among Veterans

An estimated 30 to 35 veterans are currently homeless in the Upper Cumberland region (according to the most recent stats). According to Carla Lawson, MASH outreach coordinator, “Last year, we served 200 veteran families across 26 counties in Tennessee.” She went on to say that they have “housed over 600 since the program began.”

The number one reason for much of the homelessness in the veteran population is because there is a lack of affordable housing. When a veteran enters the rapid re-housing program, they get an array of services that help them in all areas of their life.

Why Veterans May Face Homelessness

Carla shares that there are many reasons veterans become homeless. Many times veterans have been assigned important positions during their military service that caused them to work with expensive equipment, while having a great deal of responsibility. By the same token, they have built a support system of fellow servicemen and women who may remain in active duty when they leave the military.

Often it is a difficult transition back into regular civilian life. These men and women who have faithfully served our country often return and find their family structure has changed. Maybe this is because of financial struggles or perhaps it is from the stress of their tour of duty, but these life changes can cause obstacles. It can be quite challenging sometimes for veterans to find jobs and employers who understand the skills that they learned in the military can translate into civilian jobs.

Carla also points out that post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of mental illness often play a role in these vets’ lives after they return from a tour of duty.

No matter why a veteran in our area might be facing homelessness, Carla’s M.A.S.H. program makes sure that the homeless vets are able to get off the streets. And the program doesn’t just address the point of homelessness. In fact, rapid rehousing offers a 90-day case management study during the time the vet is helped which includes a job program, counseling, disability services, and any other help he or she might need to be successful.

Key Needs for Veterans in Putnam County

Carla says in Putnam County, there is a need for one bedroom apartments for most of the homeless vets. Two additional key areas of need are 1) items to furnish apartments and 2) more landlords who support the cause. Success for this program is directly related to identifying the group of landlords who are willing to work with Carla on this rapid rehousing program to help homeless veterans.

She applauds the work of Cookeville Councilman Dwight Henry and Ricky Shelton, Mayor of Cookeville for working with her on this program along with other landlords who have rental property throughout the Upper Cumberland. In March 2017, Cookeville leaders put out a call to landlords who might be willing to participate in the program. According to the Herald Citizen, this meeting was a big step toward ending veteran homelessness, a status achieved just last month by Chattanooga, according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Dwight Henry was quoted in the HC as saying “Our mission is to let the landlords know what’s available in terms of housing vets and to bring those groups together.”

How Can Veterans Participate in the M.A.S.H. Program in the Upper Cumberland

Requirements to participate in the M.A.S.H. Rapid Re-housing of Homeless Veterans program requires that veterans have at least one day of active duty or have been discharged (other than dishonorable) and have no income or are 50% below the median range for the county level of income.

Homelessness and Its Effects on Families

Carla discussed how important it is for families to have stable housing, which is something we have touched on many times on the WCTE education blog. Often times children become homeless when their parent(s) becomes homeless. Homelessness isn’t the only issue, but also the side effects of it. Some children of veterans move so often that they may end up changing schools up to three times during a given academic year. When we lose our housing, our entire environment changes substantially. Our routines are disrupted and normal rules of survival change.

We also know that lack of stable housing is associated with issues such as poor job retention, poor school attendance and poor academic performance. There’s also a connection to increased use of alcohol and substances as well as possible decreased health and immune issues.

The goal of the M.A.S.H. program is to fix the housing issue first and then create a stable base for individuals to tackle other life issues. When order and routine is restored in a person’s life, living in a constant state of high stress is no longer the norm. This only serves to help create positive long-term health effects.

By restoring housing, people are able to restore balance and may then have the option of focusing on other important life goals.

Resources for Parents & Caregivers

Putman discussed a wonderful program from Sesame Street that she uses with children whose parents have been deployed or have returned from an active tour of duty. Sesame Street addresses this in a wonderful way. Learn more about it here.

Carla works with 26 counties across Tennessee and is very hopeful that Cookeville, Tennessee will join Chattanooga as a functional 0 City. Chattanooga is the first city to be a functional 0 City for the rehousing of homeless veterans. Read more about Chattanooga’s successful initiative to end veteran homelessness here.

For more information, contact Carla at (423) 326-7857 or via email at

If you know someone who is a homeless vet or perhaps even you yourself are a veteran facing homelessness, please reach out for help. Carla and her staff also have a first-time appointment line and a crisis line for adult clients.

First Time Appointment Line: 1-877-567-6051

Crisis Line: 1-800-704-2651

And please tune in next week on 107.7 the Hub to join Cindy Putman and Carla for part two of this important topic, including putting the tools in place to help homeless veterans have a successful life. Carla certainly has the heart and drive to make that happen! 


Tune in each Saturday morning at 9:30 for the WCTE Get Ready To Learn Radio Show, with host Cindy Putman on Zimmer Broadcasting's The HUB 107.7 FM and 1400 AM. 

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