You can’t miss George Taylor — he’ll be the mustached man wearing a black cowboy hat, a shiny belt buckle and snakeskin boots searching through the bushes for homeless veterans to help along forested trails in Florida. When Taylor finds them, he brings them supplies or talks to them about how they can apply for benefits or find housing.
Taylor, who founded National Veterans Homeless Support (NVHS) in 2008, is passionate about this cause because, after serving in Vietnam and returning home with PTSD, he was once a homeless veteran himself. The 65-year-old Taylor eventually learned that he could apply for benefits because of his disability, and now his mission is to inform other vets about the help available to them.
For the past two decades, he’s been dedicated to the cause of helping homeless vets, which has served as an effective therapy for him. “I was a better person with PTSD by helping that other person,” Taylor tells R. Norman Moody of Florida Today. “I learned a long time ago that with PTSD you can eliminate some of the symptoms by staying busy.”
Since 1991, Taylor and his family have been helping vets. His kids even donated their allowances to the cause, and one of them, George Taylor Jr., grew up to become an Air Force Master sergeant and the vice president of NVHS.
For a long time, Taylor relied on donations and whatever funding he could scrape together to help veterans, but in 2012, the NVHS received a $1 million federal grant, followed by a $500,000 grant the year after. Unfortunately, the grants didn’t come through this year, but Taylor is trying to make up for the loss of funding through furious fundraising.
The infusion of funding allowed Taylor and NVHS to purchase, renovate and run five transitional housing units where 18 homeless vets can stay for up to two years while they try to become self-sufficient. Across Florida, NVHS also has held 16 stand down gatherings where struggling vets can receive medical and dental care, talk to counselors and learn about resources available to them.
Fifty-nine-year-old Adiel Brooks is one of the many veterans Taylor has helped over the years. Brooks has been staying in one of the transitional housing units for a few weeks, and now feels ready to try to reenter the upholstery business. “He is a good man,” Brooks says. “He is a good soldier. He looks out for me. He got me out of the woods.”