An out-of-luck veteran and the dog who means the world to him need some help. James and his dog found themselves living on the streets of Orlando until a passerby took pity on the pair and offered help. That was all it took for James, an air force veteran, to grasp the outstretched hand that offered him a way out of his homelessness.
According to Heidi Lewis, who is the president of Osceola County Veterans Helping Veterans, the first step in getting help for veterans is that they need to want the help. James wants the help. He wants to be off the streets, and he wants a safe place for himself and for Papi, his small dog who is also his registered emotional support dog. When times have been tough, James may have missed eating, but Papi has never missed a meal. Papi is vaccinated, and Heidi commented:
He thinks of his dog as his child. It’s pretty awesome.”
The long term plan for James is to get him into housing and get him his military benefits. All his identification and paperwork were stolen, which is not uncommon for those living on the streets. He lost his disability — probably due to the fact that he didn’t have an address. The first order of business is for James to get identification, including a DD214, which is proof of military service. James also suffers from seizures, but getting Veterans Administration health benefits takes a long time, and he will need identification. He ran out of the medication he took for the seizures. Heidi Lewis is working with him, as is Juliana Coimbra, one of the founders of the Miami Shelter Big, Black, Bully and Been Around Facebook page. Juliana is the one who noticed him on the streets with his dog and began the road to helping James get back on his feet.
Like many homeless, on the street James was vulnerable to those who prey on the weak. While he had a seizure, someone stole his dog and his shoes to sell. Luckily, a cab driver saw the dog and took him back to James. Juliana raised some money and bought him new shoes and began to make sure that both James and the dog had food. She has raised money for James and Papi to stay in a very inexpensive hotel, where they will be safe until he can get into long term housing.
James doesn’t drink nor does he use drugs. He is simply someone whose life spiraled out of control, and he didn’t know how to get it back. There is a YouCaring site for donations to help James get through this rough patch and see him through until Osceola County Veterans Helping Veterans can get him back on his feet.
Follow the Chicago Pets Examiner on Twitter and Facebook.