Homeless program changes veteran's life, seeks to help other homeless vets

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - "I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming, over and over again."

Veteran Wayne George is one of many the Transitional Housing Initiative has helped over the years.

For a decade, military veteran Wayne George lived alone on the streets. He had lost all contact with his family, a steep fall for a man who spent six years in the Air Force.

The Transitional Housing Initiative changed his life.

"It was amazing, it was absolutely amazing," he told 11 News reporter Robbie Reynold. "Six years, I spent trying to get things done, and they were absolutely able to do that in five days. Housed us, got us working, gave us hope."

Transitional Housing Initiative, or THI, was one of several programs on hand Tuesday at the 21st annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down, an event put on by the El Paso County Homeless Veterans Coalition to provide these former service members with the resources they need to turn their lives around.

Vets who attended Tuesday were given clothes ahead of the coming winter, were connected with employment opportunities, and were provided with flu shots and other health services. Additionally, up to 35 applicants were selected to be a part of the very same program that transformed George's life.

"We have a group of individual caseworkers that do interviews here, and they will choose participants based upon their info sheet," said THI Director Dinah Carney, explaining how the participants were chosen. "And we will take those individuals over to the Hotel Elegante for 30 days, and transition them through homelessness. ... We do rigorous training, education at the hotel. Get them jobs, housing, VA benefits if we can. Fix vehicles if necessary, telephones."

Being retired Air Force herself, Carney said the program is close to her heart.

"We have such an onslaught here in Colorado Springs of homeless veterans. ... I think that it’s just something that there’s a need for. We walk into it every day."

For George, THI gave him the happy ending that had eluded him for so many years after he left the military. He told Reynold he now has a home and has reconnected with his family.

"Just making me like it was OK," he said of THI. "... They really care about the vets. They were vets themselves."