This Veterans Day marks a new beginning for Andrew Grant. The military service member has struggled with addiction and homelessness for years.
He accepted help through a transitional program five months ago -- a move that changed his life.
"I have been in Tampa and out of that 20 years I had a place to live maybe four months," said Grant who said he once slept under bridges and in abandoned houses.
"This time last year, I was actually on crack cocaine. Now I'm not. This Veterans Day is my way of honoring my family because they honor me by serving."
Grant served meals to the homeless on Veterans Day, as part of a volunteer service through his transitional housing program, New Beginnings.
Director Kevin Stabile says the program connects veterans with resources and services.
"A lot of these vets don't know. There is a lot out there they can receive if they just ask," Stabile said. "This is one of the places in Tampa Bay,
they can ask."
Veteran Brian Kachelman says he began receiving help two months ago.
"From 1998 until now, I didn't realize I had anything," said Kachelman, who served in the Army from 1995 to 1998. "All of a sudden, this door opened up for me. I got health benefits, dental benefits and mental health coming to help. The sky is the limit now, thanks to the program here showing us what we can do."
For Kachelman, one of the biggest adjustments came with the return to civilian life. He says he used alcohol to cope.
"You don't have that structure. Structure is gone. You're left to your own devices," says Kachleman. "That's when for me,
I start feeling overwhelmed, trying to latch on to whatever I could to fill that void."
The same was true for 57-year-old Veteran Ralph Price, who served in the U.S. Army from 1973 to 1977. He described drugs and alcohol as his "relief valve."
He called New Beginnings, a new opportunity. He has continued to improve for two years.
"Throughout my ups and downs of substance abuse, it is real bad when you reach a low point and you don't care. You start believing that no
one else cares," said Price. "I thank God there are people that do care. They helped me learn to care."
For more information on resources and services available to veterans, visit: https://iris.custhelp.com/
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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