Amarillo sees increase in homeless veterans - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Amarillo sees increase in homeless veterans

Posted: Updated:

AMARILLO - The Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that about 10 percent of America's homeless population are veterans, and more than 200 of those homeless heroes are right here in the panhandle.

The city of Amarillo estimates that 203 people, or about 39 percent of the homeless population here, served our country.

The Department of Veteran Affairs wants to make that number zero by 2015, and local groups are working with the VA hospital in Amarillo to help make that happen.

Marshall Green with the Texas Veteran's Commission believes it's possible.

"One of the problems that veterans have is that they don't really know all the benefits that are out there and available to them," Green said.

Almost 50 percent of homeless veterans served in Vietnam, and when they came home, the VA wasn't prepared to offer them the services they needed.

But Green, a Vietnam vet himself, says that's no longer the case.

"It's just really light years ahead of what it was 20 years ago," Green said.

Head of the VA homeless program, Jenny Sartini says slowly more vets are starting to realize there is help if they want it.

"We want them to give us a second chance," Sartini said.

Another Chance House is home to 33 veterans, including Par Brohage.

"It's a big pride issue to go to the VA for most veterans," Brohage said. "I was kind of uncomfortable letting them know that yes, that in fact I did not have a place to stay."

Brohage lives in a brand new duplex with all expenses paid thanks to the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program.

Originally from Sweden, Brohage came to the United States in 1199, and served 12 years in the United States Army.

"I just wanted to feel more American and I wanted to serve my new country. So that's what I did," Brohage said.

Brohage suffers from multiple sclerosis and post traumatic stress disorder.

The MS made it impossible for him to continue working. He lost his job, and his house before calling the VA for help.

"They basically said you know, don't worry about it, it's our turn and they took me here," Brohage said.
       
Brohage says the VA saved his life. He's grateful for another chance for him and his rescue puppy, Carver.

His advice to other veterans out on the streets...

"Put your pride in your back pocket and ask for help. You can not always help yourself, as much as you would like to, sometimes, actually a lot of times in life, you do need other people to make things work. The VA is one of those organizations that they do help," Brohage said.  

Brohage, and several other homeless or once homeless veterans NewsChannel 10's Leslie Aguilar has spoken with over the last month says they do not regret serving their country, regardless of the hardships they now face on the civilian front.