Ernie* is a quiet, thoughtful man who came to the Christian Aid Center after his relationship with his family fell apart. He didn't have anywhere to go until a helpful stranger told him about our mission. Ernie describes himself as "broke down." When you talk with him, it's clear he is hurting deeply. His leg shakes uncontrollably and he is tormented by nightmares--symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from serving in the Vietnam War.
Of the estimated 630,000 homeless people in America, about 67,500 are veterans--that's more than one out of 10. Seventy-six percent are experiencing issues with alcohol, drugs or mental health after returning from the war zone and not receiving adequate treatment for the trauma they experienced. In addition, many veterans struggle to maintain jobs and find it difficult to find things in common with their families and friends. How tragic the people who fought for our freedoms are particularly vulnerable to the causes of homelessness.
At the CAC, we regularly have veterans in our shelter. Most are here for a short period of time as they wait to be admitted to the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Hospital for medical procedures and other services. Then there are others who stay with us more than a year by joining our long-term recovery program that provides counseling, classes, spiritual encouragement, life-skills training and more.
It will take time some time for Ernie to heal, but for now, we are thankful to be able to help him with food, shelter, and friendship until he receives additional care from professionals specifically trained to help veterans with mental health issues.
*Not his real name