EUGENE, Ore. — On any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters across America.
“Memorial Day is a wonderful time to remember all the men and women who help our country stay the beautiful country that it is,” said Rebecca Larson, Saint Vincent de Paul’s Public Relations Director.
That and tradition was why Jeff Strickland signed up with the Coast Guard at the age of 18.
“My grandfather was in the marines. My dad was in the army. It’s a family thing. That’s what we do,” Strickland said.
After finishing his service, things didn’t work out in his home state of Georgia and he eventually found himself out in the cold in Eugene. Like many in his shoes, Strickland struggled to get back on his feet.
“In the military you’re supposed to be big and tough and then you come out and you’re homeless with no where to go. It’s hard to ask,” Strickland said.
So for at least a year, the streets and the wetlands were his home, and Nanook, his dog, was his only loyal traveling companion. It was only through the kindness and persistence of strangers, now family, at Saint Vincent de Paul’s was he able to do so through Saint Vincent de Paul’s VIP or Veterans in Progress program.
“That’s a program that helps people overcome whatever barriers they might have including PTSD and get in a job and be able to maintain that job,” Larson said.
Strickland hopes his experience will give others the strength and hope needed to bring them back to life.
Strickland said to his fellow vets, “Don’t give up. It ain’t worth it. You can’t give up.”
Strickland credits Saint Vincent de Paul’s Veterans in Progress program with saving his life and he encourages those like him to reach out for that boost back into society. For more information on the program and other forms of assistance, contact Saint Vincent de Paul’s online or at (541) 687-5820.