After four years in the Marine Corps and an honorable discharge, Lonnie Whitfield is now living out of his car -- a humiliating and uncomfortable situation he never thought he would have to endure.
Whitfield, 28, has a number of mental health issues, and turned to the Memphis VA for help after a friend moved and he could no longer stay with him, WREG reported. But the VA told the struggling vet that it was strapped at the moment and couldn’t be of service.
Typically, the VA provides housing vouchers through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and VA Supportive Housing Program. But it is currently out of vouchers and said it will likely get 15 more later on in the summer to help veterans in the Jackson and Memphis areas.
With nowhere to turn, the father of two is now living in his black Acura.
"Coming home … it’s been a big slap in the face," Whitfield told WGER. "Veterans don’t get treated too friendly around here."
Whitfield is one of 57,849 veterans who don’t have a place to sleep at night. That was the figure the Department of Housing and Urban Development tallied after conducting its Point-in-Time count on a single night in January last year.
To the VA’s credit, veteran homelessness dropped 24 percent between 2010 and 2013.
Still, people like Whitfield continue to fall through the cracks and feel as though their country has turned their backs on them.
Though his shelter situation has been challenging, Whitfield remains determined to get back on his feet.
With the help of his VA benefits, he’s studying accounting at Southwest Community College, WHBQ reported. He told the news outlet that he stays at school as long as he can, and then he does his homework at McDonald’s.
Whitfield said he doesn’t want a handout, just the benefits that he’s earned.
"Just point me somewhere, and let me know something," he told WHBQ. "But the only thing I was told was leave a number and we’ll call you back eventually."