Brian Roberts is an army veteran and says that soldiers don’t only fight battles on the battlefield.
“I was homeless for a little bit,” he said. “I slept in my car. It was hard.”
One of his biggest fights was after he left the military. Roberts had trouble finding a job when he returned home. Unable to pay his bills, he was forced to live in his car.
“It was hard to transition,” he said. “People in the military have pride and sometimes that pride build’s like an obstacle and sometimes it’s hard to ask for help.”
Help is coming from an unlikely place, 14 year-old Cole McCafferty.
Two years ago, while McCafferty was walking home from school, he saw a man holding a sign that said he was a homeless veteran.
“It was unfathomable to me,” said McCafferty. “I could not imagine how this man who had signed up to possibly die to protect my freedom, how he could be homeless. It was part of that which compelled me to set up Cole’s Challenge.”
Cole’s challenge has two parts. The first is to challenge everyone to do a random act of kindness. The second part is to raise $50,000 dollars for the Veterans Multi-Service Center.
Debby Derricks is the director of development for the VMC. She says the money will go towards a new kitchen at the newly built Edison 64 veteran’s community.
“The VMC serves more than 6,000 veterans every single year with comprehensive services,” said Derricks. “It’s everything from benefits and entitlements analysis to housing to job training and job placement.”
Edison 64 is a former high school that endured the highest number of casualties during the Vietnam War.
“We have 66 units of permanent housing. We’ll have comprehensive services on site including a warming kitchen thanks to Cole’s Challenge,” he said. “I just thought if you got all these guys together, you had them interacting, you had them eating together, you give them a sense of community.”
A sense of community is what he thinks every veteran need.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, there were more than 23,000 veterans unsheltered or living on the street in January of last year.
Thankfully that number has been declining thanks people like McCafferty and the VMC.
It’s helped Roberts find a home, job, and got him back on his feet. He’s now paying it forward by helping to renovate Edison 64.
Roberts hopes Cole’s challenge will encourage us to serve the ones who served.