Posted on November 13, 2012 at 7:40 AM
Friday, Nov 16 at 12:16 PM
PHOENIX -- Michael Hendrickson, 22, served in the U.S. Army. But he never expected to spend Veterans Day at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
“I fell down on my luck and ended up here,” Hendrickson said. He signed up for service right out of high school. He spent more than three years in the Army and was stationed in Korea before returning home
“I loved it, but I was tired," he said. "I needed a break, but I didn’t think it would be a break like this."
He admits the transition to civilian life is proving more challenging than expected, as returning veterans face a challenging economy in addition to the challenges of life after service.
“It’s a double whammy,” said Jay Cory, president and CEO of the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
Cory estimates veterans account for at least 15 percent of his homeless population. HUD estimates the nationwide number stands around 16 percent, which is an improvement over years past.
However, local agencies agree much work remains to be done ahead of the Obama administration’s goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015.
“There’s a lot more programs and resources being devoted to this effort,” Cory said. That includes housing, counseling and substance-abuse treatment. Cory noted there’s a high percentage of alcohol- and drug-related issues among the homeless veteran population, as well as the homeless population in general.
As more troops return home, Cory believes the problem may grow before it gets better. However, a number of local and federal programs are available to those looking.
“All we want is a little help,” Hendrickson said. “We don’t expect too much.”
Resources for homeless veterans
East Valley Firefighter Charities and our Fire Departments are partnering with a project called Arizona StandDown for homeless Veterans: www.arizonastanddown.org. Beginning on Veteran's day every Firehouse in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Apache Junction, Salt River and FT. McDowell will be receiving boxes for the purpose of collecting specific clothing items for Veteran's experiencing difficulties. We will be asking members of our communities to stop by any of their Firehouses to donate the following very specific items:
• Packages of new underwear
• Packagers of new socks
• New sweatpants
• New or gently used jeans
These are THE ONLY ITEMS ACCEPTED. In addition we are strongly urging all of our Fire Department personnel and retirees to pitch in. This effort will continue through the end of the year.
We are very proud of our efforts to support our Veterans and we look forward to helping make a difference for those who have boldly served our nation at home and abroad.
Please address all questions and inquiries to Art Sloane, Executive Board of Arizona StandDown at firstname.lastname@example.org.