Homeless Veterans

By: Max Seigle
By: Max Seigle

This corner is home for 35 year-old Jerry West. His Chicago Bear hats line the top of a closet. And a picture of his 4-year old son, Bryson, sits on his desk. They're signs of a happy life, quickly overshadowed when this Marine Core Veteran talks about his path to homelessness. "It was really bad, really bad. I truly hit my lowest low," West said. West's current home is the Rockford Rescue Mission. That 'lowest low' came this summer, 10 years after his service. West was in Rockford at the time, taking care of his ailing father. Shortly after his Dad died came life on the streets. "I went two or three days without eating, didn't talk to anyone, just completely isolated," West said. That's a tragic scenario playing out for thousands of veterans nationwide. And here in the Stateline, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs says about quarter of the Stateline's homeless population are veterans...The same as the national average. "I don't think it's ever going to go away. But we can do are darndest to lessen it," said Dave Davis, with the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. Davis says there are several factors leading to veteran homelessness. Post traumatic stress is a big one. And it's not only affecting those fighting in current conflicts. "Anytime there's a new combat like now, it brings back old memories to old veterans and now we've got more problems occurring with them," Davis said. Unemployment is another factor that was relevant for West. "Jobs, you could get find them, but if you didn't have some sort of a tie, a family tie, you couldn't get into those companies," West said. He's getting help from the Rescue Mission to get his life back on track. But overall, West feels that veterans deserve a much better payback from our country. "You think they would see that, but they don't even recognize that, it's like a veteran is no more than having a high school diploma, West said." Tough words from this homeless veteran, hoping that one day he'll make his bed in his own home again. West says he's really taking things day-by day right now and doesn't have any concrete goals for the future. But he does say that his time at Rescue Mission is helping out, especially on a spritual level.


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