RICHMOND, Va. -- It might not look like your traditional bridge, but Building E at McGuire VA Medical Center on Richmond's Southside is helping people survive treacherous waters.
Navy veteran Ray Smith was barely keeping his head above the surface when he found the HomeAgain Veteran’s Transitional Housing Program.
“Without this, we’d all be on the street," Ray Smith said. "I had basically nowhere to go and nothing to get there with. I thought it would be easy to find housing. And it's not easy to find housing."
With nowhere to turn, the 61-year-old thought about taking his own life.
“I was planning on a way to end it all,” Ray Smith remembered.
But after weeks of treatment at the VA, Ray Smith found a home in Building E.
“My mental attitude has and everything changed dramatically," Ray Smith recalled. "It's went from desperation to hope.”
Ray Smith shudders at the thought about what could have happened if he did not find the HomeAgain program.
“I would still be out there in the cold and the rain and trying to get by on the streets," Ray Smith said. "And that's not a good place to be."
The HomeAgain Veteran’s Transitional Living Center is an 18-bed safety net for homeless veterans like Ray Smith.
HomeAgain Program Manager and Army veteran Daryl Smith said the non-profit is not a cure all, but a place that helps veterans find a home of their own.
“When you come in, we get our hands on you, we are able to move you along and get you off the streets,” Daryl Smith explained. “Instilling in them the sense of pride pulling out of them what Uncle Sam put into them.”
HomeAgain’s Katey Sanders said the support extends beyond these walls.
“They would be sleeping on the streets. They would be sleeping under the bridges and struggling,” Sander said. “The benefit of this particular facility being on the VA campus is that there are a ton of resources available to them.”
The average stay at the HomeAgain shelter is about two months and each transition is celebrated.
“That is what it's all about, when they leave here and they salute you and move on,” Daryl Smith said.
Ray Smith is counting the days until he walks out of Building E and reaches the other side of that long bridge.
“I can see a light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "The wheels are moving slowly, but they are moving. We’re going forward.”
Ray Smith called the program a "lifesaver" and said he "couldn’t be more grateful.”
"We’re not looking for a handout. We’re looking for a hand up,” Ray Smith said.
HomeAgain Veteran’s Transitional Housing Program is looking for clean bedding, home goods and cleaning supplies. Click here if you would like to donate or get more information.
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