Veterans become temporary homeless to raise awareness for veteran homelessness
LEBANON, Pa – Local veterans are going hungry and homeless to bring awareness to veteran homelessness. Through noon Saturday, they’ll be out on the streets of Lebanon County with just the clothes on their backs.
“I’m going to tell you,” said Bill Meiser, Homeless Veterans Awareness Campaign Chairman. “It’s tough.”
Meiser, a veteran himself, will spend 30-hours on the streets of Lebanon mimicking homelessness.
“I just couldn’t fathom today’s day and age,” said Meiser. “There’s veterans sleeping out on the streets.”
Nine years ago, after hearing stories of veterans coming back from deployment finding themselves homeless, Meiser began the Homeless Veterans Awareness Campaign with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 23. He, along with other vets and volunteers, will sleep on the streets Friday night with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
“We all are vets,” said Ron Klepper, Vietnam Vet. “And it’s important to us that we help these guys.”
While national data shows the number of homeless veterans has declined 48 percent since 2010, HUD data shows there are still about 1,200 homeless vets in Pennsylvania.
“There’s no sense to it,” said Klepper. “They fought for their country, they fought for your freedom and we’re not going to do nothing to help them?”
Klepper says when he came home, he received very little support from the community. But now, he’s happy to stand up and show other veterans there are people and organizations willing to help.
“What we look forward to most is doing what we’re doing now,” said Klepper. “Standing out here in the freezing cold. We do it because we want to help these veterans.”
Monetary donations can be sent to VFW Post 23 at 718 Chestnut Street, Lebanon, PA 17042 to the attention of Homeless Awareness Veterans Campaign (HVAC). Donations can be made online through PayPal and GoFundMe.