Vet Helps Other Veterans Get Off The Street | Houston, Texas | Chron.com
The scene in James Bute Park is straight out of Alice in Wonderland
In the midst of a distressingly hot, dry summer, it is raining and cool in the green space just north of downtown.
Of the dozen homeless men seeking refuge under a U.S. 59 overpass, a few are reading books checked out from the library and a few more are involved in a hotly contested game of checkers.
Behind them, Buffalo Bayou is a lush wilderness. To the right are winding paths that lead to impromptu camp sites. At the end of one path a man is cooking breakfast over a campfire.
“It’s like stepping through a portal into another world,” says Oskar Gonzalez-Yetzirah, mingling with the men as he walks deeper and deeper into the park.
“You a vet?” he asks.
It’s a question he and fellow outreach workers ask dozens of times a day. They work for United States Veterans Initiative, a nonprofit group trying to help as many as 3,500 homeless veterans in Houston and as many as 120,000 vets nationwide. The goal is to get veterans off the street, or pre-emptively, to stop their slide before they hit the pavement or the park.
“Call me Oskar,” he says as he distributes water bottles and hands out bus passes. He also holds the keys to drug and alcohol treatment, mental-health counseling, housing options, job training.
“You a vet?” he asks a tall young man in spectacles and a black T-shirt.