[Hpn] 25-Percent Of El Paso County's Homeless Are Veterans

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Fri, 29 Feb 2008 04:55:39 -0500


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http://www.kktv.com/news/headlines/16095227.html
            25-Percent Of El Paso County's Homeless Are Veterans  =20
    =20
            Feb 28, 2008

            Reporter: McKenzie Martin

            Email Address: mmartin@kktv11news.com

            =20
            25-Percent Of El Paso County's Homeless Are Veterans
           =20
    =20

-------------------------------------------------------------------------=
-
    =20
            You see them everyday when you drive through downtown, but =
what you may not know is that one in every four homeless people in El =
Paso County served our country in the military. They're veterans who =
have ended up on the streets after their lives in uniform.

            Melvin Walker served our country for nearly 17 years. It was =
during his 8th deployment in the early 90's when everything changed.

            "I got hurt during the first invasion in Desert Storm, broke =
my back," Walker said.

            In 1993, just a few years shy of retirement, Walker was =
given a medical discharge.

            "The first year I was out I was mad at the world, anybody in =
uniform I couldn't stand, I felt like I had gotten the shaft," Walker =
said.

            But he was making it work, until 2006 when the unexpected =
happened again. Walker lost his job.

            "For a two week span I was basically homeless," He said.

            Times were hard until he heard about the Crawford House.

            "It's a homeless shelter for veterans, people with substance =
abuse problems or who are just homeless," said Vicky Pettis, Program =
Director.

            Walker's been staying at the house now for more than two =
years.

            "I was in school when I got here, I was working two part =
time jobs and they continued to support me," He said.

            "We basically run this place like the military, we teach =
them independent living skills," said Pettis.

            She says, as a veteran herself, she can't imagine a more =
rewarding job.

            "Since I've been here, I've seen a 70 to 75-percent success =
rate," Pettis said.

            Melvin Walker is one of her successes. This past fall he =
graduated college and is now trying to get certified as a pharmacy =
technician.

            "Melvin is a big role model for these guys," Pettis said.

            So with resources like the Crawford House available why do =
veterans end up on the streets? Jack Freeman is the Homeless Program =
Coordinator for the VA Clinic, he says there really isn't a simple =
answer.=20

            "He's a person who had a pretty important job not too long =
ago and through a series of family problems and maybe post traumatic =
stress disorder, he ends up sleeping at the shelter or outside," Freeman =
said.

            And once vets end up on the streets finding work can be =
tough.

            "Believe it or not a lot more homeless people are out there =
looking for work, but it's hard to apply for a job if you don't have a =
residence and you don't have a phone," said Freeman.

            He tries to help as many homeless vets as he can. A closet =
in his office is stocked full of clothes and anything else they might =
need. But he wants to help them get back on their feet, not just be more =
comfortable on the streets.
            "We're trying to help them get services that are going to =
get them off the streets and keep them off the streets," Freeman said.

            And off the streets is where Walker hopes to stay and he =
hopes he can inspire others to do the same.

            Since we interviewed Melvin Walker he's gotten a job in =
Denver at the VA hospital there. He'll be moving out of the Crawford =
House next month.

            If you would like to help homeless veterans in our area, =
contact Vicky Pettis at the Crawford House at 477-1639.
          =20
    =20



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            <DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
            <DIV>25-Percent Of El Paso County's Homeless Are =
Veterans</DIV></TD>
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            style=3D"PADDING-RIGHT: 2px; PADDING-LEFT: 2px; =
PADDING-BOTTOM: 2px; PADDING-TOP: 2px">Reporter:=20
            </SPAN></STRONG><SPAN class=3Dtitle=20
            style=3D"FONT-WEIGHT: normal">McKenzie=20
            Martin</SPAN></FONT></FONT></FONT></DIV>
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            href=3D"mailto:mmartin@kktv11news.com?subject=3D25-Percent =
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            align=3Dmiddle border=3D0>25-Percent Of El Paso County's =
Homeless Are=20
            Veterans</A><BR></DIV></SPAN></TD>
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            <P>You see them everyday when you drive through downtown, =
but what=20
            you may not know is that one in every four homeless people =
in El=20
            Paso County served our country in the military. They=92re =
veterans who=20
            have ended up on the streets after their lives in =
uniform.</P>
            <P>Melvin Walker served our country for nearly 17 years. It =
was=20
            during his 8th deployment in the early 90's when everything=20
            changed.</P>
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            <P>"I got hurt during the first invasion in Desert Storm, =
broke my=20
            back," Walker said.</P>
            <P>In 1993, just a few years shy of retirement, Walker was =
given a=20
            medical discharge.</P>
            <P>"The first year I was out I was mad at the world, anybody =
in=20
            uniform I couldn't stand, I felt like I had gotten the =
shaft,"=20
            Walker said.</P>
            <P>But he was making it work, until 2006 when the unexpected =

            happened again. Walker lost his job.</P>
            <P>"For a two week span I was basically homeless," He =
said.</P>
            <P>Times were hard until he heard about the Crawford =
House.</P>
            <P>"It's a homeless shelter for veterans, people with =
substance=20
            abuse problems or who are just homeless," said Vicky Pettis, =
Program=20
            Director.</P>
            <P>Walker=92s been staying at the house now for more than =
two=20
            years.</P>
            <P>"I was in school when I got here, I was working two part =
time=20
            jobs and they continued to support me," He said.</P>
            <P>"We basically run this place like the military, we teach =
them=20
            independent living skills," said Pettis.</P>
            <P>She says, as a veteran herself, she can't imagine a more=20
            rewarding job.</P>
            <P>"Since I've been here, I've seen a 70 to 75-percent =
success=20
            rate,=94 Pettis said.</P>
            <P>Melvin Walker is one of her successes. This past fall he=20
            graduated college and is now trying to get certified as a =
pharmacy=20
            technician.</P>
            <P>"Melvin is a big role model for these guys," Pettis =
said.</P>
            <P>So with resources like the Crawford House available why =
do=20
            veterans end up on the streets? Jack Freeman is the Homeless =
Program=20
            Coordinator for the VA Clinic, he says there really isn't a =
simple=20
            answer. </P>
            <P>"He's a person who had a pretty important job not too =
long ago=20
            and through a series of family problems and maybe post =
traumatic=20
            stress disorder, he ends up sleeping at the shelter or =
outside,"=20
            Freeman said.</P>
            <P>And once vets end up on the streets finding work can be=20
tough.</P>
            <P>"Believe it or not a lot more homeless people are out =
there=20
            looking for work, but it's hard to apply for a job if you =
don't have=20
            a residence and you don't have a phone," said Freeman.</P>
            <P>He tries to help as many homeless vets as he can. A =
closet in his=20
            office is stocked full of clothes and anything else they =
might need.=20
            But he wants to help them get back on their feet, not just =
be more=20
            comfortable on the streets.<BR>"We're trying to help them =
get=20
            services that are going to get them off the streets and keep =
them=20
            off the streets," Freeman said.</P>
            <P>And off the streets is where Walker hopes to stay and he =
hopes he=20
            can inspire others to do the same.</P>
            <P>Since we interviewed Melvin Walker he=92s gotten a job in =
Denver at=20
            the VA hospital there. He'll be moving out of the Crawford =
House=20
            next month.</P>
            <P>If you would like to help homeless veterans in our area, =
contact=20
            Vicky Pettis at the Crawford House at=20
        =
477-1639.</P></SPAN></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE><=
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