ANOKA, Minn. (FOX 9) - On any given night across the country, more than 37,000 veterans experience homelessness. Volunteers in Anoka, Minnesota are reaching out to help lower those numbers.
A cottage on the grounds of the old Anoka State Hospital has become a haven for heroes.
“A lot of us have walked the lines of suicide, and you just want the pain to go away, you just want it to stop,” said Tom Wilkinson, an Army veteran.
Wilkinson, who is also a realtor at Realty Group, has overcome his own struggles with drugs and alcohol. After struggling with suicidal thoughts last year, he turned to a program at the Minneapolis VA. Afterwards, he became inspired to help other veterans fighting the same battle and he volunteered to renovate the old cottage.
“There’s an individual here that I spent time with here in this very building talking to him about my journey and the reason to be alive, and he had plans to commit suicide that night, and he’s here today,” said Wilkinson fighting back tears.
That individual is Navy veteran Ted Grover.
“I was very close to suicide, and he helped me a couple of other people have and it’s been an outcry that we can’t have no more suicides, so I sought the help I needed,” nodded Grover.
Now sober, Grover manages the cottage thanks to resources at the Minneapolis VA along with groups like Eagles Healing Nest, Haven for Heroes, and Friends of Healing Vets. The site houses 28 vets in transition.
“The whole purpose is for them to have a safe, clean environment to be able to heal and to acclimate back into society,” said Wilkinson. “Since the time that I’ve volunteered to work here I’ve seen a good 15 or 20 that have passed through and they’re already out in apartments, working, have cars and moving forward with their lives.”
If you are or know a veteran who is struggling, you can call the veterans crisis line 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.