In Perspective: Homeless Veterans

In Perspective: Homeless Veterans

A new program in Champaign helps homeless veterans build a new life.
After returning from war, a 29 year old veteran ended up in jail and homeless.
Luckily, there's a program new to Champaign is helping him get his life back.
It gives homeless veterans housing vouchers, and a chance to start over.

When we met Ian Hulette, he didn't have a home.
He woke up in the morning at the Salvation Army and took a shuttle to the Danville V.A. where he passes his days in a work program. 
His life now is a far cry from what it was. 
When he came home from serving his country he had a job as a teacher, a place to live, and a family.
He says it's coming back that changed him. 
"I didn't mind being on deployment, I enjoyed being a soldier. I volunteered each time I went, I wanted to go. It was interesting to me, it was an interesting experience. and when I came back there was something lacking something missing in my life that I wasn't able to get that i had found on the deploymnts.

That's when life got rough for Hulette.
He got hooked on drugs and lost his job, home, and relationships. 

"I had never really been involved in any kind of drinking, I don't really drink and I've never really been involved in any kind of drug use. I had been injured on the deployments and I came back and I had been prescribed a lot of pain medication and one thing lead to another. I wasn't prepared. I wasn't adequately prepared for how I was going to handle that post deployments, " Hulette says. 

Hulette ended up at the Vermilion County Jail because of his substance abuse.
When he was finished there, he knew he needed help.
So, he says he walked here from the doors of the jail to the V.A. in Danville.

"I just said hey I'm homeless, you know, I don't have anywhere to go I don't know what to do," Hulette says.

Jennifer Gerrib at the V.A did know what to do. 
"We can take the chronically homeless veterans directly off the streets, out of shelters, out of places not meant for human habitation, and put them into housing," she says. 

They're able to do that by using government housing vouchers, which pay the veteran's rent.
Gerrib says helping Hulette is part of a larger fight.  
"Twenty-three percent all homeless are veterans, which is almost embarrassing to me that it's the case, but it is," says Gerrib. 

Hulette isn't part of that statistic anymore.
He got one of those housing vouchers to use in Champaign, but says it wasn't easy to find an apartment. 
"It's new to the Champaign area, so there are going to be some growing pains, there are going to be some places that are confused about how it works, but that's all part of the whole evolution of the program and it'll get easier," says Hulette. 

He did find a place, and we met up with him on his first full day there. 
"I think if becoming homeless and staying in a shelter is a humbling experience, then this is a prideful experience. It's just something that you can sit and reminisce and think, you know what- I made this happen. I organized this. I worked hard and this is what you get when you work hard," says Hulette. 

He knows not everyone will view it that way. 
"If someone were to say this was given to you, this was handed to you, what would you say to them?" we asked Hulette. 
"If your child fell down on the ground, even if they need to learn to get up for themselves, you still put your hand-out and you give it to them and you say, it's ok I'm here. I put in some time. Despite it being my responsibility I still volunteered to be in the military, I sill volunteered for all of my deployments," answers Hulette.

As Hulette continues to build his new life, he hopes his success story is an inspiration to others.
"There are going to be more Iraq veterans who are going to be homeless, there are going to be more Iraq veterans who are going to  have substance abuse problems, PTSD problems, various issues related to their deployments and they're going to be going through these things and it makes me feel good that I can show people that look, you can do this," says Hulette. 

Hulette says his next step is finding a job.
He told us he's just fine with getting a position low on the totem poll and working his way up.

While this housing voucher program is new to Champaign, other cities have had success with it.
Both Danville and Peoria give vouchers to veterans.
How many each city gets is based on a count of homeless veterans.

Right now Danville has sixty vouchers.
Peoria has twenty-five to give out.
And Champaign has fifteen.

If you see a homeless veteran and you want to help you cal call the homeless veteran hotline.
The number is 1-877-4AID VET (1-877-424-3838). 

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