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CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

MARBLE FALLS — When 29-year-old Ana Lowe, her husband, Josh, both U.S. Army veterans, and their toddler son began living in their vehicle, they realized they needed to find help.

The family, which had rented a room in a house in Burnet, moved into their vehicle in August when the air-conditioning unit malfunctioned.

“I lost my job, and my husband was the only one working at the time. We couldn’t really make ends meet with just his paycheck,” said Ana Lowe, a veteran U.S. Army reservist from 2010 to May 2015.

“We were living in a really small space. We could’t afford a new air conditioner. We have a small son, a 2-year-old son,” she added. “We had to stay in our vehicle for a little while. We stayed there a couple of nights.”

The income from a single job proved inadequate to sustain the family.

At the same time, Ana experienced a death in her family.

“It was a hard time, just in general, emotionally, financially,” she said. “It just bundled up. Things like that happen. I didn’t expect it to happen all together.”

Everything changed when the Lowes found a brochure from the faith-based Volunteers of America at a Texas Housing Authority property management office in Marble Falls.

The nonprofit foundation had just expanded into the Burnet and Blanco areas and was promoting its resources for homeless veterans.

“We got the grant in April. We’re trying to get the word out that, although our main office is in San Antonio, we are out here to help,” said VOA outreach specialist Hannah Muncy.

“In rural counties, there’s not much out here. There’s no shelters,” she added. “Unless you’re in Temple or in Bell County, there’s no VA or no real facility that services the rural counties.”

As soon as they were contacted by the Lowes, officials with VOA launched into action.

“They paid our rent to get into the apartment (in Marble Falls). They said, ‘We’ll take care of that. We’ll take care of utilities.’ Just that was a huge help for us,” Ana said. “We’ve never been in such a tight situation. I get choked up just thinking about it. We’ve been so grateful.”

Muncy said the organization attempts to minimize hurdles veterans face in finding temporary assistance.

“We’ll make sure you have your documents correct. As long as the process works out well, we’ll have a case manager go out and take care of you and stably house you,” Muncy said. “We’ll take into account you want to live in Marble Falls or you want to live in Burnet or you want to be in Johnson City. We’re going to house you in the rural county you happen to be in.”

As a disabled veteran who served from 2009-11, Ana’s husband, Josh, further magnified the need to reach out to those who served in the armed forces, Muncy said.

“They helped serve our country. They help keep our freedoms,” she said. “It’s about time they get some help.”

Josh now works two jobs, and Ana continues to care for their son, Christopher, and seeks part-time work to help defray the cost of child care. A family member is also offering assistance.

Ana said she would like to work as a diesel mechanic, a skill she learned during her service.

“It’s kind of difficult to translate our skills from the military to the real world, but I’ve never felt that my military service was a huge burden. I felt like I was lucky to have been able to serve,” she said. “My knowledge from having been there serves me now.”

Lowe said she hopes her family’s story with VOA encourages others to seek help when needed.

“We struggled because these are just things that happen. Sometimes, you have the courage to ask for help because it’s hard to ask for help, but I encourage any veteran that’s struggling with their families to reach out because these are people who really care about us,” she said. “God knows we’re in a better place right now.

“We’re so grateful, and we just can’t believe how blessed we are,” Ana added. “They really really care about us.”

Eligible veterans are:

• Low income — considered 50 percent or below area median income determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

• Living in Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Comal, Gillespie, Gonzalez, Guadalupe, Hays, Kendall, Kerr and Williamson counties

• Homeless or near homeless — must be residing in a shelter, on the streets or in danger of losing housing

Services include housing counseling, a housing search, financial counseling and planning, links to services, transportation assistance, short-term rent/utility assistance, security deposit assistance and emergency supplies.

To find out more, go to voatx.org/veterans or call (210) 696-5312, (210) 612-9027 or (210) 612-6254.

Also, email Hannah Muncy at hmuncy@voatx.org or David Hines at dhines@voatx.org.

connie@thepicayune.com