Homeless Veteran Regains Strength and Hope
By Madeleine Hennessy, Communications Coordinator
Originally from Puerto Rico, Jose Martinez moved to San Diego during his service in the U.S. Navy. With clean-cut blonde hair and an athletic build, you would never guess Jose was homeless.
Jose served in the Navy for nine years before he was honorably discharged. Soon after, he suffered a mental breakdown that cost him his job and apartment. Jose, a man who served his country, found himself living in Balboa Park.
“I didn’t understand what I was going through,” he shared. “I thought I could handle it myself.”
During this time, Jose’s nutrition plummeted. He would use the money he scraped together to buy one meal a day, typically a hotdog from a nearby convenience store. After a few months, Jose grew desperate. He slept poorly, with constant nightmares and flashbacks. He knew he had hit rock bottom and decided to ask for help.
That’s when he remembered Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD). “I recognized the building from when I used to ride the trolley.”
Veterans Village of San Diego, whose tagline is “Leave No One Behind,” assists homeless veterans who have substance abuse and mental health issues. Nationally recognized as a leader in serving homeless military veterans, it is the only program of its kind in the United States. Feeding America San Diego partners with VVSD to feed veterans participating in the program.
Jose decided to check into the program at VVSD in February of 2015. Malnourished, Jose only weighed 130 pounds – underweight for his 5’7” frame – but noticed a difference as soon as he began the program. Here, he had a bed, food and a routine – similar to the regimented days he was used to during his service. Jose ate three meals a day, exercised regularly and began to heal both mentally and physically.
“Having a healthy diet helped my mind heal,” said Jose. “Three balanced meals helped my body make up for the time I was undernourished.”
When asked what he would say to those helping provide the food he received, Jose paused and reflected before simply saying, “Thank you. It brought me back to life.”