The Main Stream

Sep 23, 2011 8:01 PM

Standing up for homeless veterans

TUCSON - In active service, stand down is a break from combat. In Tucson, it's also a way to get homeless veterans off the streets.

James Hulka served in Vietnam. After the war he owned an auto garage. Today, he finds himself homeless standing outside the VA Center waiting for a bus.

"The night you really realize is when you're sleeping in a car in a culvert and you've spent two weeks there before you find a place you can stay," said Hulka.

That's where Tucson Serving Veterans comes in. Today begins their 11th bi-annual Stand Down. Homeless veterans get a roof over their heads, receive food and medical care.

"Allows us to give them an opportunity to show that we really care...that the VA cares as well as the community," said Mark Jensen, Southern AZ VA Health Care System.

The homeless vets who show up receive a free 3-day and 2-night stay at a Days Inn. But the goal isn't to give these veterans a temporary place to live, it's to give them a permanent place, a place they can call home.

"A lot of the folks that come in today and tomorrow will not have to go back on the streets if they don't want to," said Jensen.

Organizers say these veterans suffered a lot during their military service. Some even feel the government let them down, but not this soldier.

"No, I'm not bitter. Life is what you make it. I'm coming out of my hole," said Hulka.

Homeless veterans can also show up Saturday at the Salvation Army Hospitality House from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

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