veterans- the forgotten heroes
by Bethany McDonald, Executive Director of HUGCLT
Today, I was doing outreach and dropping off some food at a hotel for one of our Hearts United for Good elderly clients - and as I was getting ready to leave, the hotel staff asked to speak to me and pulled me aside.
They explained that they had noticed another older gentleman outside the property that has been sleeping under bridges and in the woods for the better part of this year. He was soaked from the rain, and hadn’t had clean clothes or a hot meal in days.
So, I sat down with him in the lobby for a while, and we talked. He told me he was a navy veteran (carries his papers in his backpack), was 66 years old, and loved to read adventure books. He also told me that his girlfriend of 46 years had passed away just this year - on his birthday. And then… he had just given up.
I saw all of that in his eyes.
Just sadness, and defeat, and loss.
HUG booked him a room for a few days, and I ran to our office to grab him food, clothing, toiletries, and books (all available thanks to the incredible kindness of our supporters and donors) and brought them back.
I got him set up and comfortable, and we chatted a bit longer about the next steps and programs we were going to look into. As I was leaving, he was thanking me profusely…. and I told him he was loved. And cared for. By strangers that believe in him and would do EVERYTHING in our power to make sure he never lived like that again.
He looked down for a second… and when he picked his head up he had tears in his eyes; then, he told me something I will never, ever forget as long as I live..
He said “Today, when I woke up, I was done. I was done sleeping outside in the rain. I was just done. And I decided today was the day I was done being here.” Then he paused, choked back more tears, and told me that if he hadn’t been approached by the staff, and if I hadn’t been there today at that very moment, there was no chance he would still be on this earth tonight.
I cried all the way back to the office.
And I cried hard.
This is why we do what we do. These are the moments that remind me how blessed I am in life, and how much I sometimes take for granted. And these are the moments that remind me how even just a little bit of love can go a long, long way.
So, still writing this through tears, we begin the process of helping this sweet, broken soul find his way back to the life that he needs and deserves.
And we will be there with him EVERY step of the way.
UPDATE: We were able to provide this amazing man a hotel room for 4 1/2 months as we waited patiently for connections to long term housing. Using funds raised from donors and through a grant graciously supplied by Centralina, we kept him in a clean, safe room until he was finally matched for an apartment and taken on as a permanent client of a local housing organization!