Homeless veteran is back on his feet thanks to AWS Veterans Home

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Gulf War veteran who had been homeless said he's back on his feet thanks to the services provided at the Alston-Wilkes Veterans Home.

WIS-TV continues its Year of the Veteran series with more on what AWS is doing for local veterans facing homelessness.

"The biggest challenge for veterans is just becoming aware of what options you have," said Lyle Burnett.

Burnett is a Gulf War veteran who joined the army at age 17.Then an accident in Korea left him with lifelong injuries.

"We got ran off an expressway. It was about a 15-foot d rop down into a rice paddy. Our vehicle flipped end-over-end – messed up my shoulder, my neck and my back," Burnett said.

He retired after eight years.

"Back when I got out, which was at the end of '91 and the end of the Gulf War, I didn't know anything about the VA whatsoever. I didn't even know I could put in for disability," Burnett explained.

Finding a job was no problem at first, but he says debilitating headaches from his military injuries got in the way of work.

"I was let go on September 16 of 2011. I have not worked since. Got into a very bad place, suffering really bad depression. Well, I mean, I was living in my car," Burnett said.

He said after attempting suicide and struggling with alcohol abuse he was referred to the Alston-Wilkes Veterans Home by the VA.

"We're helping them with their substance abuse, the trauma they experience within the military, addiction, depression, anxiety," Antoinette Nipper, a clinical case manager at the Alston-Wilkes Society, said.

AWS not only offers temporary housing, but mental health services, guidance from financial advisors, plus basic medical and dental care.

The ultimate goal is to help veterans find permanent housing, and it worked for Burnett.

He tells WIS he's now renting a room in a house and, "It's a really nice neighborhood. They're all great people. The kind of people where if you're outside, they wave."

He says the help from AWS has been invaluable.

"I'm no longer a danger to myself. So, that's probably the first biggest thing I would have to say," Burnett said.

The Alston-Wilkes Veterans Home has been in operation since 1996. It's the very first veterans home to open in the state of South Carolina.  Thanks to a recent gr ant, they've been able to begin offering clinical services within the last year, in addition to providing food and shelter to veterans facing homelessness.

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