HOUSTON – From fighting for our country to fighting for survival on the streets of Saskatoon.
Homeless veterans. They returned from the front but fell through the cracks.
Harold Jones served in the Marines for six years and was posted to the Middle East where he broke his foot and sustained a head injury.
“The pain, the physical pain, escalated and then it got out of control,” Jones said.
The war in the Middle East may have broken Jones’ body, but it is the war at home that broke his spirit.
“I’ve tried suicide twice,” said Jones.
Shortly after serving in our country, he was homeless and living in misery.
“I was more comfortable in a Marine Corps tent in a foreign country than here,” said Jones.
He traveled around the country for 10 years, then came to Saskatoon in 2018.
“I have to rate Saskatoon, the streets of the city of Saskatoon, as one of the most dangerous roads,” said Jones.
He found solace and, at least emotionally, lived with Saskatoon’s other homeless veterans.
“We look out for each other and there is a feeling of security.” Hey, I got your back, you got mine, it’s the same Marine Corps motto that we live at Semper Fi, always true, “Jones said.
He held onto his beliefs and turned his life around. He became a craftsman, saved money and found a home.
“I have improved my quality of life all around. I felt human again. And I’m no longer ashamed, I’m no longer ashamed, I’m no longer afraid, ”said Jones.
But then there was a pandemic, his craftsmanship dried up and his bank account shrank.
“It was like everything I had worked for, everything I had fought for in the last two years since I was here. It was like everything was going down the drain,” Jones said.
However, he felt hopeless. A veteran recommended that he contact the Saskatoon Area Urban League, or HAUL.
“I know veterans often feel like they are alone in this fight, but they really aren’t. They fought for our country, they sacrificed their lives, they shouldn’t live on the streets, ”said Joel Benavides, veteran case manager in the Saskatoon Area Urban League.
HAUL is one of 109 organizations that have received grants from the Texas Veterans Commission. Last year, TVC awarded $ 31 million veterans’ grants in three service categories: homelessness prevention, financial assistance, and support services.
HAUL received $ 300,000 for homeless prevention.
Benavides said the $ 300,000 helped 100 veterans and 25 surviving spouses. Each recipient receives an average of $ 2,400. The money can be used on a rental deposit or like Jones’ case rent debt.
“It gave me the opportunity, firstly, to catch my breath, and secondly, to realize that all is not lost, I am still in the game of life,” said Jones.
Despite everything he’s been through, Jones feels happy.
“Because not everyone has this chance. Pride overtakes a lot of us, ”said Jones.
So he urges homeless veterans to ask HAUL for a hand, not a hand.
“All is not lost, there is a place to go, there is a place to call for help,” said Jones.
More information about the Saskatoon Area Urban League can be found here.
More information about the Texas Veterans Commission can be found here.
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