Veterans center for homeless may close after scandal

Published On: Mar 13 2013 04:29:00 PM EDT   Updated On: Mar 13 2013 07:10:00 AM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Twenty-five-year-old Navy veteran Tony Centonze was excited to get a look at his new room on his first day at the Allied Veterans Center in Arlington -- his first day not having to sleep on the street.

"The worst part was finding a safe and dry place at least to sleep at night," Centonze said. "Some nights you don't get any sleep at all."

But a lot of people around the center will be losing sleep tonight in the wake of a massive scandal involving the nonprofit Allied Veterans of the World.

That nonprofit provides about 99 percent of the funding that keeps the center open. Without the $50,000 a month the group provides for the operating budget, the doors will close in June.

There are 27 people who call the Arlington center home right now. Some are women, some have post-traumatic stress disorder, others have traumatic brain injury. But what they all have in common is that they're there because they have not place else to go.

Retired Col. Len Loving runs the vet center, and the thought of turning its residents back into the streets is hard for even the stoic Marine to talk about.

"What would be so disappointing to me is the setback that it's going to give these people," Loving said. "It's a shame that it's going to go that way."

"I might have to drop out of school because having a place to stay takes priority over studying," said Iraq war veteran Joshua Walsh, who's homeless.

Walsh has been using the center's computer lab to help him study for his engineering degree. He's just a few months away from being able to get his own place, but now he is facing his worst fear.

"I'm going to be back a failure, being a failure again," Walsh said.