HIGH POINT, N.C. — Kennie Smith and Gattis Long are both veterans who were once homeless and helpless.
“My biggest concern was where to sleep and not have my extremities chewed off by rodents. It’s one of the things you pick up when you’re homeless,” said Smith.
That was December. Since March, Smith has instead been picking up job applications and books.
He’s one of 13 veterans living at Caring Services in High Point which accepts homeless veterans who struggle with substance abuse for up to two years.
“If it wasn’t for Caring Services and the VetNet, I’d probably dead right now,” Smith said.
He calls it his Taj Mahal.
“Normally I guess a person would be like, ‘What, this tiny little box?’ This was heaven to me,” said Smith.
Smith lost his job and family last year but kept his life. Now he plans to dedicate it to the place that helped him regain control.
Long is the blueprint. He’s been the veterans case manager for five years.
“I can’t see myself doing anything else,” he said.
In 2009, the same center pulled him from the streets and from his cocaine and alcohol addiction.
“It’s who I am. I’m that homeless veteran. I’m that homeless black man,” Long said.
Now he’s that homeowner and a provider for veterans like his old self.
“That solid support system. That sense of family what I thought I had lost in my drug addiction,” Long said.
For 23 years, Caring Services has helped hundreds of veterans regain control.
They’re powered by programs like Partners Ending Homelessness.
“Seeing Kennie’s story and the fruit of that is just beautiful to watch for me that’s the why of what we do,” said the program’s Executive Director, Brian Hahne.
And he says they couldn’t do much without the backing of Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.
“They support us not only with their resources to sustain our operation but lend a huge support for us in the community.”