June 11, 2017
“Oh, my God, that’s my angel right there. Whenever I see him, something good happens,” said Air Force veteran Randy Levell, who got an apartment with Lillard’s help after living on a park bench in Ybor City. “This is a godsend. It is, it really is. I mean, it will take a vet from down walking status to walking back tall, like I had my uniform back on.”TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) – Ron Lillard is an Army veteran who served in Iraq when he was active duty. Now out of the military, he serves on the front lines of another battle: waging war against veteran homelessness in Tampa Bay.
“I don’t actually think of this as work, it’s just something that I get excited about doing every single day,” said Lillard one May afternoon in his office at Tampa Crossroads. “This is my passion. This is what wakes me up every day. Being able to go out there and make a difference in the life of a veteran and being able to serve people who served so bravely for our country, it’s a joy.”
Tampa Crossroads is a veteran’s assistance center that works to get homeless veterans off the streets and into affordable housing. Once vets are placed in housing, the organization continues to work with them, giving them the resources and wrap-around services many veterans need to succeed on their own.
“We provide employment services, we help veterans with their resumes, we help veterans apply for disability, whether it’s social security or VA pension disability, we help them apply for healthcare if needed, we help them with identification. Anything that a veteran could need we basically assist them with,” said Lillard. “Whatever issue that they might have, we’re going to house them and we’re going to try to work on those issues after the fact. We don’t want a veteran to be homeless out there on the streets when they’re still working on issues. We’re going to get you off the streets, get you into housing and then try to link you to those services and try to assist you, and we find that we have much better success in doing that.”
“We’re slipping through the gaps. There’s too many guys, too many women and men, in this country, that served this country honorably that are falling through the gaps,” said Antonio Johnson, a Navy veteran who faced homelessness until he got help from Crossroads. Johnson says there’s not enough awareness about the organization and all it does for veterans.
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