Homeless veterans in Jackson are finding help - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Homeless veterans in Jackson are finding help

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Roy Benjamin is a Vietnam veteran. He saw combat for nine months but served in the Marines for five years. Now the Brookhaven native finds himself walking the streets of Jackson, looking for a warm place to stay.

"I wanted to be the best of everything and by me not being the best of things, I started doubting myself. then that led to my downfall," explained Benjamin.

Benjamin believes his post traumatic stress disorder spiraled out of control, leading to two failed marriages, alcohol and substance abuse, along with jail time.

A once successful career is just a memory.

"These streets don't care about you or nobody else," said Benjamin.

The former Marine says he can't remember the last holiday spent with family.

Benjamin described the streets as cold and lonely, saying he couldn't relate to people.

He along with the other homeless veterans in Jackson are receiving hope at the Opportunity Center Day Shelter.

Director Heather Ivery says ten percent of the 100 or so people that walk through its doors every day are homeless veterans.

"In these winter months, like today, it's cold and it's gonna stay cold for several months; we are going to see more veterans. a lot of our older veterans are the ones that will camp out or find an abandoned house to live in, and would prefer not to come into the shelters as much," said Ivery.

Many advocacy groups worry veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will soon start filling homeless shelters. It's already happened in Jackson but not in large numbers.

Ivery explained how the shelter catches younger veterans, "You try to catch them as soon as they come in the doors and work with them because we've learned that the longer you're homeless the harder it is to get out of that situation."

The Opportunity Center Day Shelter works closely with the G.V. Sonny Montgomery VA Hospital in Jackson.

"We have connections with their social workers, actually they send a case worker down here once a week to meet with people to make sure there is nobody we are missing. And then we can get them there with bus passes, to the hospital. The VA Homeless Program then takes it from there," explained Ivery.

However, Benjamin has some advice for younger vets.

"I know it's hard to talk to people and try to make them understand what you're saying, but find somebody, somewhere to listen to you and try to understand you. Even if they don't say nothing, it means a whole lot for you to be able to get a lot of that off of you."

For more information on how to help a homeless veteran visit: http://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/index.asp

You can also contact The Stewpot in Jackson at 601-353-2759.

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