Lasanta McGill survived in a small tent under a highway overpass. It was the best of limited choices he found when his life slipped from self-sufficiency. “It wasn’t hard. I had a sleeping bag. I didn’t have to worry about anyone stealing my stuff. No one came under the bridge but me, so I had peace of mind. That was the good thing about it.”
But it was a long way from the life he’d known. Lasanta, 58, grew up in Washington, raised by a strong and loving father, graduating from high school, serving six-years in the Air Force and working for 24 more until he was laid off. “They say you’re only a paycheck away from homelessness,” Lasanta says today. “When I lost my job, I lost everything. I couldn’t deal with the filth the fighting or the stealing at the men’s shelter, so, I went to live under the bridge.”
One day a woman passing by gave him a sandwich. “She asked if I was a veteran and I said yes. She asked why I wasn’t getting help from the VA. But this was my first time being homeless, and I didn’t know.”
She put Lasanta in touch with Veteran’s Affairs, and three months later he was introduced to Friendship Place’s Veterans First program. They put me in my own apartment and I’ve been there ever since. They helped with furniture, medical help for my depression, diabetes, and cataracts.
“You think it can’t happen to you,” says Lasanta. “But everything can get snatched away. Friendship Place gave me back a reason to live.”
Meet a few of our Veterans First Participants, including Mr. Lasanta McGill.