Homeless Army veteran turns life around, helps others

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by Christine LaCroix

azfamily.com

Posted on December 13, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 13 at 6:00 PM

PHOENIX -- At the United Way’s Project Connect at the Sun Valley Community Church in Tempe on Thursday there were hundreds of homeless people getting everything from a hair cut to a bike repair.

“We have health care services on site, flu shots, and then really basic things like a shower and a haircut,” said Amy Schwabenlender with the Valley of the Sun United Way.
Volunteers also helped people sign up for benefits and drove them to the DMV to get picture ID.
“You need that ID to get benefits and to apply for a job,” said Schwabenlender.
Jan Glasser has been homeless for about six months, and picked up some supplies like soap and shampoo.
“I’m very appreciative of what they do,” he said. “Sleeping on the street is not a good thing.”
One volunteer helping the homeless knows all too well what it is like to sleep on the streets.
“I lived up in the Papago Buttes. I built a cave down there with a pick,” said Gabe Hernandez.
Hernandez, a US Army veteran, was homeless for eight years.
Programs like Project Connect helped him to turn his life around.
“It got me a job. It got me substance abuse classes. It got me an apartment,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has been off the streets for two and a half years. He has managed to hold down a job as a janitor and landscaper at a church, but he wanted to do more.
“I like to give back,” he said.
Hernandez now attends as many of the once monthly Project Connect events as he can. He shares his story with people, and gives them tips on how to start fresh.
“We can help them by reaching out to them and just directing them to the right resources,” he said.
Hernandez said by volunteering at these events, he gets back more than he gives.
“Reach out and help others,” he said. “That’s the only way we’re going to make it.”

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