Clearwater shelter helps veterans battle drug addiction, homelessness

CLEARWATER - Many men and have volunteered to serve in dangerous places like Afghanistan and Iraq, but unfortunately, far too many of them came home to a life on the streets.

But one shelter is taking action to give them a new life.

"These are my metals from after i graduated from ranger training," said Lee Friedman.

Friedman served post 9/11 in Afghanistan and Iraq as special forces, but the rest, he is not allowed to talk about.

"A lot of people don't know what somebody in the military goes through

When you're in country or you're serving," Friedman said.

Each award is a testament to outstanding military service, but out of all the medals he's earned, one certificate from Bay Pines VA hospital makes him most proud---a token for his sobriety.

It took Friedman four years to get sober.

"It's an ongoing battle...you just can't kick it in a day."

Now he mentors others struggling with addiction.

Friedman was also homeless until he found help at Clearwater's Homeless Emergency Project.

Bruce Fyfe is the board chair for the organization.

"Tampa bay is in the top three metropolitan areas in united states with homeless veterans

For a couple of reasons…one we have Macdill Air Force base right here, so we have a large military presence, secondly, we have two great medical facilities, Bay Pines and James Haley and veterans travel for health care."

Homelessness in the military hits close to home for Fyfe. His son, a marine named Brendan, slept on couches in Masssachusetts to get treatment for PTSD after three Iraq tours.

At 24-years old, he overdosed.

"Thirty percent of the homeless population in the united states are veterans.

11 percent are of the veterans who are homeless are women," Fyfe said.

The non-profit stabilizes veterans so they can recover and reclaim their lives.

They had to turn away 1,800  people last year. 

"They give you a bed but you know, that's the beginning of it," Friedman said.

But every year - they do help many people, just like Friedman.         

"If a veteran is really wanting to get their life together, you can but it's up to the individual," he said.

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