WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The 'Homes 4 Our Heroes' project in Winston-Salem continues to garner community participation, including that of two veterans who are working to curb a situation they understand firsthand--veteran homelessness.
Whole Man Ministries' project has had several setbacks--including rotted floor joists and lead abatement--but now is back on track to be completed by Veterans Day. The five duplexes on Cameron Ave. will house at least 10 homeless veterans, who have been asked to apply and have not yet been selected.
"I started coming out here because I needed something to do. And it infused in me. I have to be here. Even on the days [the project] has paperwork, I want to come out and work," said volunteer Myron Smith.
Prior to staying with a friend, Smith was among the 57,000 veterans estimated to be homeless on any given night. He is one of two veterans in Whole Man Ministries' apprenticeship program, in which homeless individuals from local shelters can come work on the project.
Whole Man Ministries pastor Barry Washington, who started the apprenticeship program, explained, "My understanding is that when they (homeless individuals) are going through this transition of being homeless, they have a lot of dry time. They're incorporating and learning a different skill, and not only that, but they're meeting other contractors and hopefully they may be able to land a true job."
Smith, a six-year Army veteran, admitted he has combated PTSD and alcohol addiction. He said post-homecoming, he moved from Texas to Charlotte to Greensboro. He then moved to Winston-Salem upon hearing about Homes 4 Our Heroes.
"A lot of guys feel displaced. So they become displaced. I know I chose to be homeless, in a fashion. I was trying to get away from a situation where there was alcohol involved. That's not for me. Not anymore. I'm recovering," Smith said.
Smith works alongside another veteran volunteer who is still homeless. This disabled veteran did not want to be named or shown on camera. But, he did want to share what he has learned from his work.
"It gives me a lot of experience doing carpenter work that I hadn't ever experienced before," he said.
This veteran said he has submitted an application to live in one the homes, upon completion. Pastor Washington said Whole Man Ministries has not yet made final selections on whom will live in the duplexes.
Washington said the entirety of the project has benefited from the two veterans' participation.
"To see these guys be able to put aside their own troubles, their own concerns, at the moment being homeless and yet to come out here and be a part of this project--it's a blessing," he said.
- Homes 4 Our Heroes needs continued donations, in order to be able to complete the houses. Wednesday, Aug. 20, Chili's in Winston-Salem will donate 10 percent of proceeds to Homes 4 Our Heroes. Customers must simply tell their waiters that they are eating for Homes 4 Our Heroes. The two Chili's locations in Winston-Salem are at Stratford Common Court and E Hanes Mill Road.