Veterans Outpost in Tustin triples its beds for housing vets in need of support – Orange County Register

Veterans Outpost in Tustin triples its beds for housing vets in need of support – Orange County Register

U.S. Army veteran Michael Anderson said before he arrived at the Orange County Rescue Mission’s Veterans Outpost in Tustin 10 months ago, he had hit rock bottom.

The former Army specialist and father of a 1-year-old daughter had been struggling with alcohol dependence and was at a point where “it kind of all crashes around you.”

His former wife, also a veteran, pointed him to the Rescue Mission, where he was then connected to the Veterans Outpost, an apartment community offering free and low-cost housing for homeless or formerly homeless vets, along with a variety of services including health care, vocational training, food and educational assistance.

“You kind of don’t  know where you are headed or what you are going to do,” Anderson said. “Then you come here and you’ve got a bunch of people who really want to see you do better.”

A recently completed addition to the Veterans Outpost – which is marking its fifth year – has expanded the number of veterans the Rescue Mission can now help.

The expansion, which includes the addition of three fourplexes to the existing fourplex, has added 45 more beds, making for room to house 71 people.

“I’ve watched this from the ground up,” said Ray Johnson, 77, a pastor who ministers to the veterans at the outpost, where he himself has been living for five years. “It’s just going to give us a greater opportunity to serve more people. It builds the strength of our community.”

The outpost, which has been paid for with private donations, has furnished one-, two- and  three-bedroom units, a community room, gym and laundry facilities.

“We have been absolutely blown away by the donations we received from the local community and our incredible donors throughout this process,” Orange County Rescue Mission President Jim Palmer said in a statement. “Without them, this expansion would not have been possible.”

There is no one “type” of veteran living at the outpost, Johnson said.

Some are single parents, some are overcoming addictions and there are those who are simply in need of some help getting back on their feet, the pastor said.

Many veterans have been through trauma and struggle with PTSD, Johnson said. Others just need someone to talk to.

“Michael can knock on my door and I can knock on Michael’s door at 2 in the morning,” Johnson said of the community nature of the outpost.

Army combat veteran Jesus LozaCruz, 41, performs outreach for the rescue mission. “There is a huge need with veterans struggling with homelessness, especially here in Orange County.”

He doesn’t live in the Veterans Outpost, but encouraged many of the formerly homeless vets who are living there now to seek its services. Multiple contacts with a homeless veteran out in the field are sometimes needed to convince the former military personnel to accept housing and services, he said.

“We have a big population of veterans who are everywhere,” said LozaCruz, who has had his own struggles with PTSD. He was injured several times while serving two tours in Iraq from 2000 to 2012.

“The real vets are invisible. They are sleeping in cars, behind bushes and couch surfing,” he said. “They are out there. Little by little, we get to them and then gain their trust.”

Anderson said living at the outpost has given him the feeling  of “being looked out for.”

“My life has changed so much for the better since I’ve got here,” he said. “I didn’t know that it would be the life-changing thing that it ended up being.”

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