Like most veterans who end up homeless, the lives of Abe and Robin Horne of Sarasota, Fla. haven’t been perfect — which is why they needed some assistance when it comes to keeping a roof over their heads.
Both Hornes served in the military during the ’70s and ’80s, working a variety of jobs once they were discharged. Then in 2011, Abe was laid off from his position as a resort groundskeeper, suffering a heart attack soon after. The following year, Robin was arrested for disorderly conduct and had a seizure while she was in jail, the first of many health problems related to her epilepsy.
With their ability to work diminished and their resources tapped, the Hornes lost their housing and ended up sleeping at the Salvation Army, where they were rousted at dawn every day to head out onto the streets again.
Eventually, they turned to the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Sarasota-Manatee (JFCS) for help. For five years, the JFCS has run Operation Military Assistance Program, which just scored a large grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs, giving it $1.2 million to help homeless veterans in the area.
JFCS case manager Liberty Veedon tells Billy Cox of the Herald-Tribune that it was challenging to find programs that the Hornes would qualify for and housing that would accept them. “Their history became a major impediment to placing them,” she says. “Their health is not good, they have one or two evictions and credit issues. Usually we can place a client within 10 to 15 days and within six or seven months they’re back on their feet. This took a lot longer.”
The JFCS has an 80 percent success record with keeping veterans in their homes, an impressive number given that many of the veterans they work with suffer from PTSD, substance abuse or other health issues.
The JFCS didn’t give up, however, and now the Hornes are living in their own unit in a triplex, and they don’t have to worry about losing it. “If it wasn’t for these guys helping us,” Abe Horne says, “I don’t know where we’d be. We were lost.”
The people at the JFCS are putting out the word that they have resources to help veterans in need of assistance — even if those former soldiers haven’t had a squeaky-clean post-service record.
Abe regrets his past decisions that led to the predicament of homelessness. “It doesn’t take much to get homeless and I’ll admit I’ve done a poor job managing my finances,” he tells Cox. “Some people, they don’t care and they accept the fact that they’re homeless. But I’ve slept with one eye open and I’ve lost my dignity and that’s no way to live. I credit (JFCS) for helping me get my disability and for keeping us alive.”
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