Homeless Veterans Leave Four-Day Camp With Help, Hope
Peter Jon Shuler/KQED News
About 450 mostly homeless Bay Area veterans are returning after a four-day respite from their normal lives. Their visit to a tent city encampment in Alameda County was meant to leave participants a little better off than when they came.
The rows of green khaki tents at the Alameda County Fairgrounds are already gone. But for many of the participants and volunteers, the effects of the weekend live on. Thomas Hutchings works with therapy dogs in the wellness tent. He said this is a way for him to give back.
“I’m a Vietnam veteran and you know many of us were, shall we say, kicked to the curb,” he said. “Well, after 40 years of ruined life, you turn around and see these young veterans come back, and you want to do everything in your power to make sure they don’t go through the same thing.”
Many people availed themselves of a variety of free services, from haircuts to legal advice. On Friday, chiropractor Eric Belusa is doing body work on veteran Jomo Kenyatta.
“He’s cracked my back and gave me a lot of stress relief,” said Kenyatta. “Something I’ve been needing.”
Belusa says he hopes the people he saw this weekend have learned how to take better care of themselves when they can't get access to treatment.
"If I can show somebody some easy stretches to do that can alleviate some problems, I’ve done my job,” he said.
The event also gives people a sense of camaraderie and a feeling that they’re not alone. Robert Dillon from San Francisco was finishing a spaghetti lunch in the camp’s mess hall.
“From just this short time I’m going back with a little different attitude. Because that’s what’s going to change, whether it will make it good and bad,” he said.
Dillon said he got a lot done at the event, including clearing some outstanding traffic tickets, getting a new ID and registering for transitional housing. Still, he says, he’s taking it one day at a time.
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