HIGH POINT, N.C. — It's been a long time coming, but Billy Riley, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, is finally home. It’s the latest step in his recovery since leaving the service.
“Life started pulling apart,” said Riley. “I took to alcoholism and stayed pretty gone for a long time.”
Riley is the first veteran to move into one of three renovated cottages at the former John Wesley Camp in High Point, now called The Heroes Center.
“Somebody else’s confidence in me helped me build my own self-confidence,” Riley said.
The goal of The Heroes Center is to provide emergency and long-term housing for veterans.
“We were able to lease it for 14 years for $1 so that we can house veterans here,” said Mark Harris, the outgoing chairman of the board for the center and the Dean of the High Point Campus of GTCC. “The only problem is we need to take it up to code and get it ready for veterans to move in.”
It's taken two years to get to this point thanks to help from donors, including the High Point Community Foundation, and volunteers.
Whether it`s coming here with a rake or a hammer, whatever it is, we welcome it all,” said Victor Jones, a city councilman and the new chairman of the board for The Heroes Center.
There has been a huge show of support for everyone involved — most of whom are veterans themselves, including Jones and Harris.
“It’s just surreal, to hand someone a key that served our country for 9 years and lost his way,” said Jones. “And if it wasn`t for this building right here, he`d be homeless.”
Home Sweet Home: three small words that Riley said now carry so much meaning and hope.
“It`s important to look at,” said Riley. “It`s a great reminder of what the future holds.”