Homeless Veteran Says System Failed Him

Thursday, November 11th 2010, 6:39 pm
By: News 9

Jon Jordan, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- On any given night some 100,000 service men and women don't have a place to call home and one retired homeless veteran wants people to know the system is a big reason why.

Retired Sergeant Paul Clayton has been homeless off and on for nearly 20 years. He served in the Gulf War during "Operation Desert Storm" and now he works and lives at the City Rescue Mission.

"This here was the last place I ever thought I would wind up at," said Clayton.

Clayton blames the system for not doing more when he returned from service. He said he turned to alcohol and drugs to help combat a lot of the mental problems he was suffering from.

"You just got discouraged because of all the red tape. It's a lot of procedures you've got to go through just to be seen. You get discouraged and you give up," Clayton added. "You think that they [the government] would welcome you back with open arms, but it wasn't like that…"

It's why Clayton has a hard time believing the President who told service men and women at a U.S. military base outside of Seoul, South Korea that their country would stand behind them.

"I want all of you to know that when you come home, your country will be there for you," said President Obama.

Tiffany Webb, the City Rescue Mission's Director of Development, said one of the hardest parts of her job is knowing there are veterans who have to turn to them for help.

"They end up homeless when they get back here, it's heartbreaking," Webb said.

Webb stopped short of blaming the system for homeless veteran problems, but admits a lot of times she find it doesn't help.

"Because of all the processes and jumping through hoops to get things done it's easier [for homeless veterans] to give up then to go through all the mess," Webb said.

Fortunately Clayton said when the system fails there are places like the City Rescue Mission willing to step up and help.

"[The City Rescue Mission] basically saved my life, it has done more for me then anybody," he said.

In an effort to combat veteran's homelessness and help those like Clayton, the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs Eric Shinseki announced that in the past 19 months the VA's budget has increased by 16 percent and will increase by another 10 percent next year. A portion of the money will go to eliminate veterans' homelessness by 2015.