INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — In these frigid cold temperatures, the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation, or HVAF of Indiana, is checking on homeless veterans.
CBS4 rode along with Outreach Coordinator Rodney Jackson as he hit the road. He goes out every day, checking on veterans around Indianapolis.
“We’re going over by Lucas Oil (Stadium), they call it tent city,” Jackson said.
Jackson, a retired Navy veteran himself, has been at this job since March. It’s close to his heart.
“I was homeless myself three days in California, after I got out of the Navy, got divorced, and laid off my job at Boeing,” Jackson said. “While I was out there, I kind of prayed about it, saying, asking ‘Lord why am I going through this?’ And here I am today giving back.”
On a day like Thursday, with temperatures dropping below freezing, Jackson is making sure the veterans are okay out in the elements.
He met John Wheeler in tent city, giving him some boots and socks.
“I will use the boots he gave me. It’s getting a little chilly for sandals, but right now I’m fine,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler, a Marine Corps veteran and former accountant, chose to live without a home in 2001. He has worked to help other homeless individuals, and even gives much of his retirement money to outreach services.
“My body’s still going good and while it is, I’m going to go west and enjoy life,” Wheeler said of his future plans.
His story is one of many: As of last year, the state estimated there are nearly 800 homeless veterans in Indiana, with more than 300 of those in Marion County. Most are not living outside, like Wheeler, but Jackson works to meet every one where they are.
Jackson’s ultimate goal is to gain trust and convince veterans to access services and eventually move off the street.
“One of my vets was moving into his apartment today,” Jackson said.
To do that, it starts on the ground, on cold days like Thursday, as Jackson handed out items and checked in on as many veterans as he could.
“I’m just determined to make sure they’re alright, get them off the streets,” Jackson said.
You can learn more about HVAF of Indiana at the link here.