by: Kristen Guilfoos
Amarillo, Texas - They fought for America's freedom, and now some of them are living on our streets. NewsChannel 10's Kristen Guilfoos has more on homeless veterans in the Amarillo area... And how one local group is working hard to help them out.
It's a problem that's getting worse... Soldiers returning from combat and finding themselves living on the streets.
At any given time, there are about 100 veterans in Amarillo facing that same situation. Richard Collins spends one weekend a month making sure the homeless vets in our area are well taken care of. "They gave to our country. We need to give something back to them."
A Vietnam vet himself, he's happy to work with other volunteers to provide the homeless vets lunch and anything else they might need to get by.
"We pass out information that might help them with disabilities and things of that nature. We bring bibles, we bring clothes. Winter time is coming so we're gonna start looking at trying to bring blankets, coats, gloves."
One of the folks in line this weekend was Bob Cook, who hasn't lived indoors since returning from Vietnam. "I didn't know how to take care of myself. I didn't have a sleeping bag, a backpack, slept under bridges, sold plasma to buy cigarettes."
Bob is among dozens of others in Amarillo facing life on the streets after life on the battlefield. The VA's Henry Hawley says, "You just don't walk back and everything is normal. Families aren't normal, relationships have changed over time, so it's very difficult."
It's that lack of normalcy that's leads many of these vets to feel lost, with no where else to turn. And it's not just those who fought in wars like Korea or Vietnam.
Hawley says, "There's more veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan that are becoming homeless and that is a new population for us."
Whether these vets are 18 or 80, Richard and the other volunteers say they can rest easy knowing they've done their part to help out.
Larry Pierson says, "I get pats on the back, hugs, you know, makes me feel like I'm appreciated."
Collins says, "It just gives you a good feeling in your heart. It just makes you feel good to know that you can help others."
New efforts are being made on the national level to help out theses homeless vets as well. The VA is teaming up with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to transition these vets from the streets and shelters to some type of permanent housing. For more information on that program you can call 211.