HOUSTON – From fighting for our country to fighting to stay alive on the streets of Houston.
Homeless veterans. They returned from the front lines but fell through the cracks.
Harold Jones served six years in the Marines and was deployed to the middle east where he fractured his foot and suffered a head trauma 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’s the war at home that broke his spirit.
“I attempted suicide twice,” Jones said.
Shortly after his service to our country, he was homeless … living in misery.
“I was more comfortable in a tent in the Marine Corps in a foreign land than I had been here,” Jones said.
He bounced around the country for 10 years, then in 2018, he came to Houston.
“I have to rate Houston, the city streets of Houston, to be some of the most dangerous streets,” Jones said.
He found comfort, at least emotionally living alongside Houston’s other homeless veterans.
“We look out for each other and it’s a sense of security, ‘Hey, I got your back, you got mine, it’s the same motto in the Marine Corps we live by Semper Fi, always faithful,” Jones said.
He held onto his faith and turned his life around. He became a handyman, saved up money and found a home.
“Improved my quality of life all the way around. It made me feel that I was human again. And I am no longer ashamed, I am no longer embarrassed, I am no longer fearful,” Jones said.
However, then pandemic struck, his handyman work dried up and his bank account dwindled.
“It was like everything that I had worked for, everything I had fought for, within the last two years since I had been here, it was like it was all about to go down the drain again,” Jones said.
He felt hopeless, however, a fellow veteran recommended he reach out to the Houston Area Urban League or HAUL.
“I know a lot of times veterans might feel like they are in that struggle by themselves, but they’re really not. They fought for our country, they sacrificed their lives, they should not be living on the street” said Veteran Case Manager at Houston Area Urban League, Joel Benavides.
HAUL is one out of 109 organizations that received grant money from the Texas Veterans Commission. Last year the TVC gave out $31 million in veteran-based grants in three service categories: veteran homeless prevention, financial assistance, supportive services.
HAUL was awarded $300,000 for veteran homeless prevention.
Benavides said the $300,000 helped out 100 veterans and 25 surviving spouses. Each recipient receives an average of $2,400. The money can be used for a rental deposit, or like Jones’ case rental debt.
“It gave me an opportunity to first of all take a breath, secondly to realize all is not lost, I’m still in the game of life,” Jones said.
Even after all he’s been through, Jones considers himself lucky.
“Because everybody doesn’t have this chance. A lot of us are overtaken by pride,” Jones said.
So he’s urging homeless veterans to reach out to HAUL for a hand up, not a handout.
“All is not lost, there is a place you can go, there is a place you can call to get help,” Jones said.
For more information about the Houston Area Urban League, click here.
For more information about the Texas Veterans Commission, click here.