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Veterans Day Sheds Light On Homeless Veterans

Posted at: 11/12/2012 8:33 PM
Updated at: 11/12/2012 10:10 PM
By: Dietrich Nissen

(ABC 6 News) -- Monday was a time to honor, thank, and pay tribute to the men and women who have served our country, including those who are now homeless. It's a problem that the government says it wants to solve.

According to the U.S. Veteran Affairs website, there are over 67,000 homeless veterans in our country, including hundreds in Minnesota like 53 year-old, David Otte. He tells us he’s a U.S. Army veteran, who until recently, couldn't find a place to live.

"A lot of stress," says Otte. "Not knowing when to, where I'm going to sleep or eat."

Otte spent the day at Rochester's American Legion with other veterans, like Airman Tom Quick. He says homelessness among veterans has been an issue for decades.

"I think drugs during Vietnam really made a bad deal. When they can home, nobody cared. I can remember walking out and hearing ‘baby killers’ and all that," says Quick.

Just on the other side of downtown Rochester, the Salvation Army prepares its Monday night meal. The group says in the past six years, 20% of the people its served are homeless veterans.

"They went over and they served that we might have freedoms. And they come back home and find out it's kind of difficult to cope. And they say to themselves that shouldn't be happening to me,” says Major James Fry. “I'm strong, ya know. I'm resilient. Right now, I'm having all kinds of difficulties. I don't really want to task anyone for help because I'm the one who’s been providing that."

Everyone agrees it's a problem that needs to be solved, but solving it they say is complicated, and a trying task only a community can do together.

"It's terrible and I don't know what we're going to do. I don't know what we can do to make them better," says Quick.

"There's quite a few homeless veterans out there and I think they should be all encouraged to get themselves off the street," says Otte.

On Tuesday, Quick and some other veterans are doing their part to help by delivering coats and food they collected, to homeless veterans in Hastings.

If you know a veteran who is homeless or at risk of homelessness, contact VA's National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).