Expanding Christian Non-Profit Housing Program for Homeless Veterans

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Some of them suffer from post-traumatic stress. Others have just found that the transition from military life in the unstructured world to the unstructured world is too difficult to manage.

Whatever the reason, 100 veterans live on the streets of Greenville, Anderson and Pickens Counties, as well as in the North West, according to the latest count for the Ministry of Housing and Housing. Urban development of the United States.

Four of them now have a temporary home in a transitional shelter run by a non-profit religious organization called Fellow Countrymen. And eight more can get help when the organization opens a second facility in January.

David Nardone, a former itinerant veterinarian himself who has found a new purpose in life by starting this ministry 19 months ago, knows that it only scratches the surface. But he says it's not up to the government, but the communities to help those who have gone astray after serving their country.

"The government is doing well, but it needs community members to integrate, and that's what we're doing here," Nardone said. "We came out with faith."

Since the opening of the shelter in April 2017, 13 different homeless veterans have lived there in pairs while recovering.

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The shelter, located in the City View neighborhood of Greenville, is now occupied by four veterinarians, twice as many as it was designed.

Their stories are as varied as the ranks of the more than 37,000 homeless veterans in the United States.

David Whitlock left High School Travelers Rest to join the army in 2006. In nearly two years of service, he has never left the bases in Georgia.

But when he came out, his life collapsed.

"My wife and I separated and I was not too well placed in my head," he said. "I lived in a motel, and David here came and pulled me out of this bad place where I was and helped me immensely."

Now he is working for a roofing company and is standing up like a civilian.

Similarly, Thomas O'Dell has never seen a fight during his three years in the Marines, although he spent a year in Okinawa as a heavy equipment mechanic.

"My problem was drinking all the time," he said.

After two bad marriages, he drifted several years in Florida before returning to South Carolina about a year ago. He lived at the Salvation Army in Greenville when Nardone helped him.

He applied for a job at Walmart and hopes to be hired.

Like Nardone, who fought a lot in his 17 years in the Marines, Brandon Patterson survived a year of fierce fighting in Iraq in 2006.

He says he's "managed this fine."

"I never really went to war until I got home," he said.

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Before joining the army, he had finished the concrete, but he was not able to return to the job market after returning home.

"When you create monsters to destroy the enemy in time of war, how do you imagine that they will work in peace?", He said.

The lack of structure was difficult for him, he said.

"It's up to me to find this structure. It's not easy, "he said. For now, he's "trying not to become a statistic".

Hoyle Cox, 69, looks like many Vietnamese veterans who are still haunted by what they experienced during this tragic war.

He went home and went to school with the GI Bill to learn auto mechanics. He was doing pretty well until he was a little shelled by his Harley Davidson. He suffered every day for a year and a half after the sinking, which prevented him from working, he said.

Cox says that his PTSD is "not bad", but he collapses when he describes how his "team of killers" in Vietnam was overrun by a larger force of Viet Cong and how he fired at one of them at close range. He seems to be returning to the jungle of Southeast Asia and describing this deadly encounter. He said, "I shot him five times," then he became emotional. He can only form a sad greeting as he tries to restrain his painful tears.

Cox lived in a tent in Pickens, at a Virginia house in Asheville, and most recently in the Miracle Hill rescue mission in Greenville before meeting Nardone two weeks ago. He had been treated at the Greenville Memorial Hospital for his tiredness, and was wandering the streets as it was not cold enough to stay in the rescue mission.

"I was hungry, I had nothing," he said. "I met my brother Marine, he said I had a house for veterans, and I said, let's go, now.

"I'm here, I'm happy."

Nardone found Cox in one of his outreach missions to homeless veterinarians on the street.

"Everyone's story is different," said Nardone. "There is not really any particular reason why (the veterans are homeless), apart from the fact that the army is waiting for you to cross a very close line."

This and the striking contrast between the mission of the army and that of occupations in peacetime.

"Basically, the army is a machine. He does what he does well, and that causes people to kill. But there is no training to take us back to society, "said Nardone.

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The sense of serving the noble cause of the defense of freedom sometimes fades into the cynicism of those who feel treated unfairly, he said.

"For those of us who are chewed into the system and spit it out, it leaves us feeling empty inside."

Nardone has an answer to this void.

"We are focusing here only on this cross," he says, pointing to a painting representing the logo of compatriots and a soldier kneeling in front of a cross. "We report it to Jesus."

"Amen," says the Vietnamese veterinarian.

The mission will expand on January 1, when fellow countrymen will open their second shelter under the auspices of the United Housing Connection, Nardone said.

His compatriots, who have no payroll, have won support from several companies, including Walmart, Home Depot, State Farm, MatressFirm and King Fasteners, the owner of the building, which now serves as a halfway house. According to Nardone, the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association has raised about $ 15,000 for the program in 2018.

It will take a lot more support from the community to support the program, he said. He wants 100 people to sign up for $ 22 a month, which would be sufficient to fund both centers.

"You would not think it would be too difficult to get," he said. "I've been trying to do this for 20 months." I have six people registered, "

To learn more about compatriots, including how to support them, visit www.fellowcountrymen.org.