By: David Williams - WISH-TV 8
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Leading state lawmakers reached across the aisle Wednesday to launch a new initiative aimed at helping homeless Hoosier veterans.
60-year-old US Navy veteran Jeffery Alan Johnson said he spent months living on the streets three years ago.
“In and out of shelters, family,” Johnson said.
He served aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey in the 1980s and served in Lebanon. But, he fell on hard times.
“Probably the lowest point of my life. One of the lowest points,” Johnson explained. “It was bad.”
His story, and the stories of all homeless veterans are resonating with state lawmakers.
Federal data shows there were 572 homeless veterans in Indiana last year, a 6% increase from 2018.
“We talk a lot about the differences between House Republicans and House Democrats. But I think one thing we can agree on is helping our veterans.” said Indiana House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta.
House Democrats and Republicans teamed up with the Indiana American Legion on Wednesday to launch the “Helping our Hoosier Heroes” donation drive.
“To try to bring attention to this worthy cause of supporting those who have supported us overseas and here at home for our security. Such an illustration as to what’s going on in the Middle East right now,” said Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives Brian Bosma.
“I think it’s terrific. I think it’s something that’s much needed,” Johnson said.
More than 3,000 items have been collected so far.
They are asking for the public’s help with collecting things like razors, toothbrushes, shampoo and soap.
“It’s outstanding. It really helps to shine a light on the veteran community and problems with the homeless,” said Allen Connelly, who is the American Legion, Department of Indiana state commander.
Johnson is now enrolled in college and he owns a small business. In his eyes, the donation drive provides hope for homeless veterans.
“They need a helping hand. They need some hope. Basically they just need some hope, like I needed,” said Johnson.
If you are interested in donating items, you can do so at the statehouse located at 200 W Washington St through mid-March. If you have questions about the initiative or donations, call Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives Brian Bosma’s office at (317) 232-9609.
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