Aug 29, 2011 12:26 AM by Matt Stafford

Vets helping vets

"It adds up," says Ron Winning, as some fellow veterans in the Warrior Brotherhood cook hot dogs for homeless veterans in the area.

The plan wasn't originally for helping homeless veterans with the barbeque they held Saturday in Colorado Springs, but the Warrior Brotherhood -- a veterans motorcycle club -- saw a need and went for it.

"They just wanted to help their brothers out," Winning says of the guys who came out and gave a little money and time.

"They provided all the food, all of the supplies... we couldn't do it without them," says Cari Matthews, a case manager with Veterans Affairs Supported Housing -- part of Housing and Urban Development. They use federal money locally to help get vets off the street, or keep them from ending up there.

They were happy for the help. Matthews says they get funds to help about 60 vets at a time, but that's not close to enough.

"Currently we have an interest list that has 125 to 150 names on it," says Matthews; she also says that with local soldiers coming home from war, and staying in the area, the number they have to help is growing. She says they had ten vets come in just last week looking for help.

"I was homeless for a short period of time," says Werner Kraftas, a veteran of the Army National Guard who came out for a bite to eat.

Kraftas says he was laid off and hit a rough patch, but he got one of the vouchers and is recovering now. He says it's because of that initial boost from the V.A.

"It's everything; the housing is everything," says Kraftas, saying everything fell into place once the housing was taken care of.

But for some like Ben Bolt, a U.S. Army veteran, it can be tough to take that first step.

"I stared at this homeless sign -- "homeless for vets" -- for two days; I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to turn the door knob," Bolt says, but once he did he says things changed for quickly for the better.

"I just needed some help, and they threw me a lifeline," says Bolt.

He knows not everyone will take it, but for those who want it he says it's there.

V.A. Supported Housing hopes the funding will stay; they think they'll be spared from looming federal cuts, but they're also hoping to see a few more barbeques, or anything people want to do, to help.

For more on the Warrior Brotherhood, click here.

For more on the Veterans Affairs Supported Housing, click here.

The local V.A Supported Housing office says they could use donations to give to local vets; bathroom and hygene items would be a big help.  Donations can be made at the Colorado Springs office at 25 N Spruce, in room 207.


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