Veterans help homeless veterans
Darien securities trader volunteer to offer food, employment training
Mike Boyd spends most days hustling around a Wall Street trading floor, but this week he and two other securities traders were hustling around a kitchen serving up salad and ziti to about 60 homeless men, including veterans.
Boyd, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and chief compliance officer for New York-based Academy Securities, is looking to raise awareness and money to help veterans find jobs and financial stability long after they've been discharged.
"We're here today as part of outreach and because there is an issue with homeless veterans that's going to become worse as more veterans return," Boyd said as he helped at Shelter for the Homeless on Pacific Street in Stamford's South End.
Unemployment among veterans is double the national average, Boyd said.
When he graduated in 1994, Boyd said he had no experience and interviewing for work was difficult. Though Boyd was eventually hired at a financial institution and worked his way up, he said that's not really feasible nowadays.
Boyd was joined by co-workers Tim Coughlin of Darien and Terry Goodwin of Greenwich in reaching out to veterans. Their firm is disabled veteran owned and beyond returning dividends for investors, it focuses on helping veterans.
Marie Johnson, who works with veterans at the shelter, said there are about 230,000 veterans in the state and 450 of them are homeless. She said one-third of the adult homeless population is veterans, including women.
Leroy Jordan, who does community outreach for the shelter, said of the 93 men currently staying there, about eight of them are veterans. He said their ages vary.
Johnson said they provide intense case management for the veterans and some financial support, such as money for a security deposit. Right now, she's working with six veterans.
"This is brand new," she said. "It really kicked off late last year."
Many of the homeless veterans left their homes in a "precarious situation," Johnson said. They come back from duty with post-traumatic stress disorder, behavioral issues or problems dealing with life and children, she said.
In addition, the caseworkers said that many of the veterans living on the streets don't know about the services available to them and they have to deal with the high cost of living in the area and the ongoing lack of jobs.
"There weren't jobs for them," Johnson said. "How many jobs do you know where you have to drive a tank?"
Another issue, not mentioned by the caseworkers, seems to be alcohol and drug use. Two homeless veterans at the shelter, who agreed to speak, were both dealing with substance abuse.
Dave, 50, who didn't want his last name published, said he was in the Army during the Persian Gulf War and was discharged for bad conduct. While in the Army, he was arrested for drunken driving and possession of a controlled substance.
"I struggled with substance abuse for years," he said.
The veteran said he's now working a security job for $10 an hour, taking part in a recovery program, trying to obtain health and housing benefits, and saving money for a rent.
"I don't want to get an apartment I can't afford and be back here again," he said.
Raymond Bell, 62, served in the Army during the Vietnam War and was released in 1971 on a less than honorable discharge for a fight. Through the years, he's worked numerous jobs and fathered children with several women.
"I would drink everyday, but I held a job down," he said.
Although Bell went to rehab several times, his drinking continued. After hurting his back and losing his place to live in 2008, he found himself living on the street.
Now, Bell said he's been sober since September and staying at the shelter. He recently signed up for social security and hopes to get a place soon. He said he's been there too long, but appreciates everything they've done for him.
"This place is a God sent," he said. "It's very good to be here on a cold night, because I slept under a bridge for three years."
Bell said he's met a lot of other veterans at the shelter, adding that he can tell a "service guy" by the way he carries himself. He said they often share cigarettes or a few dollars.
The proud veteran said he doesn't want to accept help from anyone, not even his family. He said "Army guys" have to learn how to survive on their own.
Johnson said this is the case with many of the veterans she encounters.
"A lot of them are humble, they don't want to ask for help," she said.