More than 60,000 veterans are homeless on any given day, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
On Monday, a nonprofit saluted some of those homeless vets in Philadelphia. The Veterans Multi-service and Education Center offered live jazz, hoagies and bingo to former military personnel.
Ashley Cole, who was stationed at a Nevada Air Force base from 2008 to 2012, said she came to the event to socialize with like-minded vets.
“Even just that bickering between the services … brings back memories,” she said. “It brings back home.”
After returning to Philly last year, she started a job at a government agency. But she struggled with a panic disorder, and soon became unemployed. Then she lost her home, too. With help from the Veterans Multi-service Center, she recently secured permanent housing.
Cole urged civilians to not turn a blind eye to homeless veterans.
“You might see a veteran out on the street, and you might think, ‘Oh, he’s just begging for money,'” she said. “You don’t know what they did for you. You don’t know if they were directly involved with your safety.”
By the end of 2015, the Veterans Multi-service Center hopes to end the homelessness that it estimated affects 400 Philly vets every day.
That might seem like an ambitious goal, but nonprofit president Bob Lord knows something about making a comeback. The Vietnam veteran was badly injured by two rocket launchers while in action.
“They thought I was dead,” he said. “Facial injuries … abdominal injuries … not breathing due to lung injuries.”
Yet after more than a year in the hospital, Lord recovered and eventually became a successful insurance agent. He now helps other vets make a comeback by heading the nonprofit that connects them to housing, job training and other services.
“It’s like teaching a person to fish rather than giving them fish,” he said. “Can we get them all to overcome the obstacles of life? Not really. But if we get one, that’s a success story.”