• Emily Neal

Veteran Continues to Serve

This past Monday our country honored the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we all live in an America that is free, equal and full of opportunity. They laid down their lives so that we could have a chance to live the American Dream. Today we are thinking of those who they fought alongside, and who came back home to find the American Dream harder to reach than they remembered. According to the 2017 PIT Count, there are 40,056 veterans without a home on any given night in America, which accounts for about 11% of the homeless population. While there are numerous factors influencing veteran homelessness, the ultimate barrier is a home. For a true sense of the difference a home can make, we sat down and spoke with Fred Barksdale, a veteran who is living in a United Housing Connections home in Greenville.

Fred came to United Housing Connections with nothing but the clothes on his back, but since move-in day, he has created a life filled with giving back to others. When he left the Miracle Hill Shelter to move into his “sanctuary,” Fred knew that there was so much more to be done. He has since created a group of eight veterans who he mentors. Since starting this group, five of his mentees have found their own housing. As he shared his story, he reminded us that, “Our circumstances do not determine who we are.” Fred recognizes that there is power in sharing the story of his own circumstances with people who are experiencing homelessness. He can empathize with them and explain that he was once where they are.

“Seeing someone who has made it pulls them out of hopelessness so they can continue to persist and create a plan,” Fred said.

Fred has helped his mentees create a plan and connected them with organizations in Greenville that can serve as their own “angels” to help them be successful in finding and keeping a home.

At 69 years old, Fred has been inspired by his experiences to go back to school for his counseling license. He calls himself the oldest teenager at Greenville Technical College. This is his second chance at a college education after spending his prime post-secondary school years serving the United States Army as a message decoder during two tours in Vietnam. When he returned home in 1979, he got off the plane and began to wander throughout Georgia and South Carolina searching for a job and home. Since then, Fred had struggled to find a permanent home-- until now.

Now that Fred has a permanent home, he is on a mission to find housing for his brothers and sisters in arms. Pushing back tears, Fred reflects on how much “his guys” have grown already through his mentoring and pledges to continue his efforts. You may even catch him making a difference in other veterans’ lives as he cruises around to meet them on his trusty red moped named “Lucille.” If you do, be sure to thank Fred for his service to our country and service to his neighbors.

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