Home Depot renovates veterans center

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Veterans are faced with many housing challenges. In 2012, more than 62,000 veterans were homeless.

That's why the Home Depot Foundation spent Thursday renovating part of the Five Star Veterans Center's transitional housing facility.

The center offers temporary housing to displaced veterans for free -- helping them avoid living on the streets.

The center was in danger of closing earlier this year when its primary benefactor -- Allied Veterans of the World -- was closed down by state officials that claimed the Internet cafes were actually illegal gambling parlors.

IMAGES:  Veterans facility gets a makeover

The center offers programs that help reintegrate heroes back into society, giving them a room, their own bathroom and three meals a day.

Patrick Petty is one of the veterans living at the center.

"The assistance that I've had has been -- I've never felt more free in my whole life," he said.

Petty, like many who come home from war, are still battling, this time demons from the things they experienced overseas.

"Everybody has their own issues that they are dealing with," Petty said. "I mean, some are worse than others."

The center's specific focus is on post-9/11 veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Since Petty moved in five months ago, he says he's made a huge turnaround.

"I was going through, like I said, a time of my life and was struggling," he said. "I went through the worst."

Volunteers of the Home Depot Foundation installed drywall, blinds, light fixtures, ceiling tiles, refinished floors, replaced carpet, remodeled bathrooms, built new closets -- all for the veterans who live in the third wing at the center.

It currently houses 20 combat veterans, including three who suffer from traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress.

"For the folks who have gone out and sacrificed their lives and given of themselves to serve America and to come back and not have a home is pretty akin to a national tragedy," said Rian Morris, Southside Home Depot manager.

For vets like Petty, it means the world to him that he has a place to call home and is also getting the assistance he needs.

"Take time out of their day in ordinary life to actually come here and help us as veterans have a better home for ourselves, it's incredible," he said.

This is just one of the projects Home Depot is working on. It will complete a total of 350 service projects for veterans by the end of the year.

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