A fresh set of wheels provides fresh mindset for homeless vets - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

A fresh set of wheels provides fresh mindset for homeless vets

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A Columbia organization is making it easier for homeless veterans to get to and keep jobs. You may not believe it, but the solution involves bicycles.

Just listen to the story of Shawn Ewing and his Schwinn Ranger.

"I never thought I'd live in South Carolina period," said Ewing. "I never thought, but you never know."

After 2 years in the Navy and some time in the mortgage business, Ewing bounced around. He landed in Columbia with no job and no transportation. Then he found Fast Forward.

"It turned my life around," said Ewing.

The community technology center helped him get back on his feet, but those could only take him so far. He needed wheels.

"I've learned more than I ever wanted to learn about gears on bicycles and why it's important to have more than none," said Fast Forward representative Dee Albritton.

Albritton, who is used to helping vets access help with computers, now gets them mobile.

"One of the first things employers ask you is do you have transportation," said Albritton.

A few years ag, she started a partnership with the Columbia Police Department to get confiscated bikes donated. Without it, Ewing would have to depend on the bus system that would make it difficult for Ewing to hold on to his new job.

"If the bus stops running I don't have anything to worry about except my legs," said Ewing. "As long as they can make it I'm good!"

Albritton, meanwhile, wishes people would understand the value of a bicycle.

"I think we really do forget how much these things can mean to folks who are putting everything together to get their lives back," said Albritton.

Ewing is on the management track at a grocery store and working on his degree. He'd like to keep his bike. It isn't the shiniest, but it works and now so does Ewing.

"I might just build a little plexiglass case and put it inside," said Ewing. "The bike that started my new future, you know."

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