I am a Vietnam-era vet, but I had never used the VA. I was homeless, alcoholic and broke – living on the street. I grew up in Bridgeport, and when the work was gone, I started drinking, real bad.
I knew it was time to do something. I was on the verge of suicide when I finally called the VA hotline. I had been drinking all day. A case and a half. I had a .45 automatic in my hand. I saw the number for the VA hotline, and for some reason, I called. They talked to me on the phone for 2 hours until a friend of mine came to pick me up.
The VA put me in a 21 day program. Then they connected me to the Thresholds Veterans Project.
Thresholds helped with a security deposit, that was a huge help. The counseling and help is great. It really helped me out. Helped me with housing, furniture, pots and pans, everything you need to get started and make it work.
Having my own apartment means that I’m finally stress-free. Before that, my blood pressure was 254. I have diabetes. I was suicidal. Now I sleep 8-9 hours a night – before I woke up every 20 minutes all night long. My bosses say I’m changing. I don’t drink at all anymore.
For a long time after the war, I was fine and worked for a good union shop. It’s so important to have a safety net when you need it, when you lose your job. Now I’m 61 years old, no one wants to hire someone over 50. Lots of Vietnam-era veterans are facing the same thing. Thresholds got me some job interviews.
All the Veterans, even from Gulf War, Iraq — we all communicate because we’re all in the service. We know what you have to do, what it’s like. When you go in the service, they teach responsibility. We all speak the language. They’re all the same, and they know what responsibility is and how to take orders.
I was just reading in the paper there are a lot of veterans living under an overpass in Chicago. You know, they just want a roof over their heads. There are veterans there that are homeless, just like I was.
If you’re living on the streets, how can you clean up for a job interview? You need housing first.
A lot of veterans don’t know about the services available. They don’t know about the pensions available. I see veterans on the street, and I tell them, “Thresholds does this, VA does this. There is help out there.” My friend didn’t know that they get benefits and opportunities. I keep a stack of copies of the things Thresholds does, and I hand them out when I can.
I love my apartment now. I love it. There are some veterans nearby that I know. Now I’m back.