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VA tackling veteran homelessness with new units, renovations

Posted at 8:02 PM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 16:54:04-05

MILWAUKEE — An effort to help Milwaukee's heroes. On Tuesday, Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson toured the renovated “soldiers home” on the grounds of the local VA hospital.

The renovation is important for housing homeless vets. Inside this historic building are 101 apartments and each provides a place for local vets in need.

The $44 million project revitalizes the historic landmark that was once a refuge for Civil War soldiers in combat, and now a refuge from the harsh realities of homelessness.

Dela Garza, a combat engineer, fought in Vietnam at a time many Americans protested war. The not-so-warm welcome back home was coupled with PTSD and made for a harsh reality living back in the U.S. for Garza.

"It was very tough, I kept to myself. I didn't have many friends," Garza shared. "Then I got a divorce. The kids, of course, went with their mom and that's when I started becoming homeless."

The issues compounded into year of transient living.

"I had a lot of medical problems, mental problems," Garza shared.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates 6% of the state's veterans live in poverty, and around 350 are homeless. That's where the Milwaukee soldiers home comes in.

"This place, it makes you feel comfortable," Garza said. "You have nothing but veterans as neighbors."

Now with stable living, Garza is reminded to pay it forward.

"It's the experience in life that really motivates you to be a positive person."

People at the soldier home are happy to know that while a challenge lies ahead with veteran homelessness, projects like these remind them that those who fought for this country are not left behind.

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