COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Memorial Day is about honoring the lives of fallen American veterans. It’s also an opportunity to help the servicemen and women who are still with the community.
A January 2019 report from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness estimates there are 462 homeless veterans in South Carolina on any given day.
Of that total, Richland County leads the state with 96 homeless veterans, and Lexington County is third with 75.
Transitions Homeless Center CEO and veteran Craig Currey said his team interacts with an average of 35 self-identifying veterans a day.
His organization offers housing, meals and connections to resources with the state veterans affairs office.
“It is frustrating when you see someone who served their country and now they’re homeless, and you kind of wonder sometimes what happened along the way that led to that. It’s a different story every time,” he said.
Currey stressed every case is different, but his team sees the themes of mental health and drug addiction among the veterans they serve.
His organization’s website features various volunteer options, including meal service and working as a library volunteer.
Another resource for veterans in the area is the Big Red Barn Retreat. Its offers programs that help with overcoming PTSD and transitioning to civilian life.
It also offers various volunteer and donation opportunities, but program leader and veteran Lamont Christian said listening to a veteran can be just as important.
“Do I have somebody next to me or behind me that I can trust. That is the underlying fabric, the thing that is woven into the military experience. It’s trust. Can I trust the person behind me? Do I trust the person above me? Do I trust the people beside me? Do I trust the people in front me, and those elements I think don’t get spoken about,” he said.
"And so when a military member separates, that what's they're looking for. They're looking for who can I trust."
WIS reached out to the South Carolina Veterans Affairs Department about the number of homeless veterans in the state.
They sent the following statement from Secretary William F. Grimsley:
“No veteran should be homeless in our state. The South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs is actively working with veterans’ service organizations, non-profits, and legislators statewide to address the ongoing issue of homelessness. We are in the process of implementing revised processes and procedures to study the root causes and factors of why some veterans are without a place to call home. As we look to the future, our goal is to implement a holistic strategy to address Veteran needs and eliminate homelessness for those who have served proudly.”