Veteran's Initiative Program gives homeless veterans a place to stay - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Veteran's Initiative Program gives homeless veterans a place to stay

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YAKIMA--Some veterans struggle readjusting to civilian life.  Maybe they get divorced, can't find a job, or even have drug and alcohol problems.

In Yakima, there's a safe place for veterans to get back on their feet.

The Veteran's Initiative Program houses homeless veterans for up to two years.  In an ironic twist, the building on South 6th Street was a drug house where people came to get high, until about six years ago, when it was remodeled.  Now, some of those same folks were back for a totally different reason.

Richard Stuker was living the American dream.  He had a great family, good job and was happy.  He credits his time in the army for getting him there.

But, five years ago, his life hit rock bottom.

"I made some bad choices and bad decisions and allowed them to rule my life," Stuker said.  "Became paramount in my life and got to the point where that's what my life was about."

His marriage over, his job gone, and battling addiction, Stuker left Florida, where he'd lived since serving at Fort Gordon in the 1970s and came home to Washington.

"I didn't know what direction I wanted to go," Stuker said.  "I didn't know what directions were available to me."

This is where Stuker turned his life around:  the Veteran's Initiative Program home on South Sixth Street.

"They're eligible to stay here for two years, rent-free," Carlos Reyes, the program's case manager, said.  "We provide meals, we provide dental, medical care."

With those basic needs taken care of, these men can focus on fighting their personal demons.  Stuker spent a year here.

He's been sober and living on his own since April 2007.

Now he says he's happier than ever.  He's patched up his personal relationships and is a substitute teacher at our local schools.

He hopes others can follow in his footsteps.

"You don't have to do it alone," Stuker said.  "There's people out there who truly do care and will help you if you're willing to help yourself."

The home has 11 beds, but right now eight people are staying here.  That's something the VIP hopes to change.

If you know any veteran who might be in need of a place to stay, this could be it.  Comprehensive Mental Health runs the VIP, so if you're interested, contact them at (509) 575-4084.