MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every night, more than 1,800 veterans in Minnesota are looking for somewhere to sleep.
Many have their families with them, making sleeping in cars and under bridges challenging. Richard Benjamin is a veteran who found himself looking for a house for his wife and their six children.
Thanks to the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, or MAC-V, the family is on the road to finding a home just in time for the holidays.
“I fallen on hard times, had some things happen,” Benjamin said.
Life has thrown 31-year-old Army Veteran Richard Benjamin some curve balls. The married father of six spent his years in the military, helping other service members at Fort Sil, Okla.
“Average military life, going to work every day, going on base, a little bit of field training here and there, serving the soldiers, taking care of their dental needs on post,” Benjamin said.
The military was good to Richard and his family. He says life got complicated when he left Fort Sil and the Army, and decided to go back to school to be a chef.
Richard landed a job as a chef and moved back to his native Arizona. Already struggling to make ends meet, things got worse when Richard lost his job and then his housing.
“It was time for a change so I came here in June,” Benjamin said.
Richard and two of his children made it to Minnesota. They stayed with a friend. A day after arriving, he found a job. But then, another setback.
“I ended up using my all my savings I built up to bring them here and even with such a large family and the generosity of my friends it wasn’t feasible to have us all in that one place,” Benjamin said.
Homeless again, Richard made a big step towards finding his family a home.
“The hardest step is to actually reach out and ask for help. As veterans, sometimes it may be our pride getting in the way. We’re tough and we can handle this on our own. It’s not about handling it on your own, it’s about sucking up your pride and asking for help,” Benjamin said.
Richard says the hardest part was no being able to provide for his family.
“To be put in this position and to have all this responsibility to care for them and it hurts, feels like I haven’t been able to do it for a long time,” Benjamin said.
That all changed when Richard met Sue Peterson at Anoka County Family Promise.
“We are an interfaith hospitality networking program so we partner with churches and at this time, we have 14 churches that currently assist us with providing the evening meal and sleeping accommodations for our families,” said Peterson, a case manager at Anoka Family Promise.
Anoka County Family Promise is one part of a network MACV uses to help veterans.
“Let’s say there is a storm and you can’t see in front of you. You’re struggling and we try to provide the assistance to get off from under that dark cloud,” Jon Lovald with MAC-V said.
More than anything, Richard says he is thankful the resources in Minnesota are working to find a home for his family of eight.
“Being able to reach out and find organizations like MACV and Anoka Family Promise, it’s starting to make me feel good again that I am working towards finding stability for my family, my wife, my kids, that I have a job now and organizations such as this are helping,” Benjamin said.
A helping hand this veteran hopes will materialize into a home for his wife Amy, and children Maryana, Evan, Zowie, Dani, Logan and Arya.
“Just to be able to provide for my family and give them the Christmas that they deserve, and I have three birthdays in December for the kids so they are all back to back so I want to be on my feet, give them a stable home and what they deserve for Christmas,” Benjamin said.