Posted: Nov 18, 2013 8:10 PM
Updated: Nov 18, 2013 8:30 PM
BROWNSVILLE - Many Rio Grande Valley veterans don't have a place to call home. They are among the homeless who roam the streets in search of shelter and food.
Jose Chavez is one of those veterans. He sleeps on a concrete slab next to a church in downtown Brownsville.
"There's a lot of difference. When you live in a house, you get to shower or you get to eat. ... On the streets, you don't," he said.
Chavez shared an apartment with his mother until three years ago, when she died. He could not find a job and ended sleeping on the streets. The 59-year-old veteran uses a blanket and his backpack has his bedding.
"It's tough. Really, it's tough. You have to be alert. You sleep ... sometimes you don't," he said.
The Marine Corps veteran said a foot injury keeps him from finding work.
"I am trying to find a job. I got my diplomas and everything. I want to go and wash cars. I can do it. That's where I learned how to work, but it's just very difficult," he said.
Chavez visits the Good Neighbor Settlement House to eat and clean up. Workers at the shelter said Chavez isn't alone. They said there are at least 70 homeless veterans in the Valley.
"Most of the veterans that I see here are homeless. They face a lot of obstacles. Some are dealing with some kind of dependency or addiction," said Leo Rosales, director at Good Neighbor Settlement House.
Texas Workforce Commission statistics show that veterans account for about 10 percent of the unemployed in the Valley.
"They don't have information needed or they are having difficulty translating their skills that they have acquired during their time in service to the civilian world. So that is definitely a barrier for them," said Salvador Castillo, with Cameron County Veterans Office.
Many veterans rely on the Texas Workforce Commission to find jobs. Bart Nacianceno is a veteran who now works for the agency.
"Being unemployed was extremely difficult. I have a double-major bachelor's degree and probably applied for 500 jobs in a six-month period. I didn't get any calls," he said.
Nacianceno is an Iraq War veteran. He tries to motivate others.
"They have to start somewhere and that's what we are trying to push to them ... educate them on jobs and employment that's available to them," he said.