CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Part of a program that helps cover rent for veterans is ending, meaning that dozens of retired service members will be forced out on the street.
"I wasn't on drugs, didn't have a drinking problem. I was fully employed. I became homeless in a matter of days," Dennis Elcock, a veteran, recalled.
Elcock said this period was one of the darkest times in his life. He said the Transition in Place, or TIP, program was the safety net that caught him before he hit rock bottom.
A HandUp Community Center Resource Center program steered him into housing and wrap-around services.
"From there, I was able to gain access to my children so they moved me to a two-bedroom apartment. We went to a Fannie Mae seminar where in two years, I was a homeowner," Elcock said.
Elcock and other veterans who have been connected to housing through TIP know how crucial the service is.
"Couldn't have done it without them. There's just no way. They picked me up and put me on my feet and that's the simplest thing I can say and it has been a blessing," James Larivey, another veteran who was helped by the program, said.
Both men are deeply concerned about the housing dilemma that the TIP program is currently facing.
HandUp's CEO Augusta Hite is now scrambling to find new housing by January 31 for 17 veterans that his nonprofit is currently housing through a corporate lease.
"As we are looking at the termination of our corporate lease with our current apartment situation, with the townhomes of Chesterfield which will place us in a difficult spot as we are trying to find a soft landing spot for the transition in place program," Hite said.
The dilemma is sparking fear and uncertainty for veterans who are already dealing with physical and emotional health issues.
"We had one gentleman who is dealing with some mental health issues, who upon receiving the news has refused to sleep in his apartment. The news was traumatic enough that it triggered some mental issues and he is now sleeping in his car in front of his apartment and has reverted back to some of his behaviors before entering into the TIP program," Hite said.
"Nobody deserves to be homeless. Veterans don't deserve to be homeless, you know. It tears you up," Larivey said.
Hite hopes that someone in the community willing to allow a corporate lease will come forward and help his organization keep the veterans in a safe housing situation.