Willy is a homeless vet who started working and living at the VA since around 1995.He first started staying there and then had a relapse and messed everything up.He knew inside that he was a failure.Everything he had went to drugs..during treatment he realized he wasn’t healthy or doing good and he started hustling when he was homeless so this didn’t help his life any. Willy was a heroin addict and his mother didn’t want anything to do with him.When his mother found out that he was getting help and staying out of trouble for his birthday she got him a ring with his birthstone in it and he couldn’t of been more grateful. He always remembered the times that he actually let drugs take over his life at one point in time. Willy now takes part in helping other homeless vets onto their feet. He moved his way up since he first started here and now lives happier as oppose to before. He will go around to all the different homeless shelters and gather the homeless vets seeking help. You don’t have to stay at the shelter if you choose not to but it’s a great opportunity to fix the mistakes you have made along the way.
It all started on Aug.16,2006. Lenny had gone to the program for 30 days and moved on. He didn’t take suggestions from anybody so he was basically on his own. He left in December and was gone until march and in march he started using again. After he got his things together and he started changing his life around. To him it was a very hard thing to do due to the fact that he hadn't done this before. He started going to church and followed directions and suggestions and now his life is more together. To Lenny the VA hospital isn’t bad and the programs they have to offer are very unique. He didn’t realize until he went to the VA that he wasn’t different from everybody else and he wasn’t the only one in this type of situation.The programs were encouraging him to be responsible and grateful for what he had been blessed with. To him it feels good to be listened to. The hardest part he thought went though was his whole life revolved around getting more drugs. All the money he had went to drugs and now he finally realized that the drugs were getting him nowhere and that life is more than that. Lenny completed 10 th grade and was able to get his GED in the army. For now he’s happy with himself and the way he has recovered.
Jack has been a resident at the VA homeless shelter since around 1998. He went for about 3 or 4 months and had to leave due to his addiction. After 2 years of sobriety he was able to come back in July. He first started off in a shelter in Westfield and there was a routine there that you had to be in by 5 at night and out by 8 in the morning. By 8:00am you were considered a street person which to him was no way to live. Compared to a shelter the VA is the place to be there you are provided with your own bed, a telephone, a cable colored TV and its more of a home than just a place to stay for the night.. Its more of a Residence V.S. a shelter. Jack is in a wheel chair but not because he was in the war. Its because he lost a leg aside from war. Jack was another who let drugs control his life. A down part in his life was when he had no family because of his drug use and when he soon hit rock bottom his decided that turning his life around was the right thing to do. Being a failure at life didn’t make him happy so turning it around took a big place in his heart.
Mr.Downey is the man in charge or the VA. He was able to inform us about what the hospital was more about and the details we didn’t hear from the other men.Some of the facts he told us were that you can stay here for the rest of your life if you want and that the average age at the VA hospital is about fifty-four and a half. One of the more important things he mentioned was that if you have no money then you have no power. This basically meant that with money you cant do much and you have really no say in what matters so with the money you earn you will get somewhere with yourself.Another thing he mentioned was not many vets here have family relationships and it hurts so its more of the people around them are their families and the ones they can actually talk to on the most part. Some statistics he also mentioned was 88% of them are alcoholics and or drug addicts,82% of them have a mental illness’s,85% of them have substance or mental issues and that at the VA hospital there are 8 registered sex offenders. The sex offenders are all on electric monitors and there are programs they can attend but they are unable to come and go as they please. Mr.Downey also said that 94% of the offenders had been sexually abused before sexually abusing.
Overall the people at the hospital are not trying to hurt you but to help you. They feel like you deserve more of a chance than you would normally give yourself in a real world situation you would most likely not be able to handle on your own. So if you feel like you need help and you are a homeless vet then give it a try because the help there is phenomenal and a great deal of people have changed their lives around due to the VA hospital. You don’t have to be locked there and its your choice whether you want to stay or not. But one thing is that they do not tolerate drug use or alcohol abuse.So if you need help do your thing because in the long run you will thank whoever helped you along with thanking yourself for being the bigger person and switching your life around. Its worth it and many lives are touched each and everyday!!
This is a picture of some of the vets that we were able to meet and actually talk to some of them having been interviewed and some just told heart touching stories….
Last but not least a special thanks to all the people who took part in our project. Thank you for all of your stories, they were wonderful. Even if they were not as easy to tell as they were to hear they were still great.It was a good experience learning what other peoples perspectives were on how their lives had been touched and how it helped people improve in many ways!!! THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING!!