Veterans speak up about homelessness, community support

Posted at: 11/11/2012 8:36 PM
Updated at: 11/11/2012 10:37 PM
By: Danielle Todesco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The latest statistics on the homeless population show staggering numbers for homeless veterans across the state.

The National Coalition for the Homeless says around one in four homeless people is a veteran.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 we went to speak to New Mexico veterans who have become a part of those statistics.

William Roper is a father of three, a husband, a veteran, and he's homeless. He was in the army, and served time in Iraq and Afghanistan, but now his challenge has been getting back on his feet after coming home.

"We go out, we fight, we do what we have to do for our country," Roper said. "We come back, it's hard for us to find a job. It's hard for us to keep a place over our heads, keep our families well taken care of."

Roper is just one of hundreds ending up on the streets. On any given night, there can be as many as 750 homeless veterans in Albuquerque.

Grant McKinney, a marine who served in Vietnam, is staying in a shelter Sunday night. He said he's been trying to transition back into society for decades.

"It's hard for us to talk to regular people in society because they don't understand the things we've been through, the things we've seen, the things we've done," McKinney said.

He said he wants to see veterans given time to adjust, time to spend with other veterans who have been deployed and have seen what they've seen.

McKinney said veterans need the community's support for their sacrifice. "They're putting their life on the line," he said. "They're out there, because freedom is never free. It never has been. Somebody has to pay for it, and those are the people who are paying for it right now."

The number of homeless veterans has dropped nationally. And the secretary of veterans affairs says he expects the numbers to be even lower when this year's count is released.