Shelter fights to save homeless vets

Richard Dennison
Richard Dennison
Sean Mero
Sean Mero

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

KALAELOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Richard Dennison felt he had his life covered.  He was in his 50s, retired from the U.S. Navy and working at a good position.

Then in April, 2009, everything got messy.

"One morning in the parking lot going to work I had a heart attack," he said.

He lost his job and became another military veteran on the street.

There are hundreds of homeless vets in Hawaii, trapped in substance abuse or post traumatic stress disorder, or victims of the economy.

Ex-sailor Sean Mero was homeless and consumed by questions.

"How am I going to get a job when I haven't showered in a couple of days and my clothes look like this? Where am I going to sleep tonight?" he said.

"I ran out of savings, hopped between family and friends, staying with them," Dennison said.

Both men ended up at the U.S. Vets shelter in Kalaeloa.  It houses and helps veterans who were homeless.

"We have a good success rate of guys coming into our program, moving out and finding housing, staying clean and sober, getting jobs and becoming tax paying citizens," vice president Darryl Vincent said.

Outreach coordinator Marko Johnson finds homeless vets in parks, doorways, and even in caves on the Leeward coast.

His sales pitch is simple -- let us help you.

"We wear them down. We speak to them on a regular basis, make friends with them, and they usually change their minds," he said.

The shelter presently houses about 200 veterans who were homeless but are now going through substance abuse and job counseling.

"If it wasn't for U.S. Vets I have no idea where I would be right now," Dennison said.

U.S. Vets has a two-year program, from transitional shelter to independent housing where clients pay rent

The organization estimates it's helped over 1,500 homeless veterans over the last seven years.

The battle is far from over but those who help homeless veterans refuse to surrender.

To learn more about U.S. Vets and how you can help the organization go to

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