Homeless veterans receive helping hand at West LA Stand-Down event

WEST LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles has the largest number of homeless veterans in the country -- over 4,000 in the county.

On Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Health Care System hosted the Homeless-to-Housed Veterans Stand-Down event. City and county offices helped guide veterans on a path to find housing.

Dale Musselwhite, a Marine infantry veteran who served in Japan, knows the struggle to find a place to live all too well.

"I've been out on that street and it was terrible. I lost so much dignity," Musselwhite said.

The 57-year-old veteran was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I'm a recovering addict. My drug choice was meth 'cause I, I get emotional 'cause I self-medicated 'cause I don't want to feel the pain and the sorrow of some things I experienced," he said.

Musselwhite thanks the Veterans Affairs Department in Long Beach for helping him recover. He's about six months sober.

"It took me a lot to ask for help," he said. "I didn't like asking for help because I was a Marine."

Musselwhite now has his own place, and he was at Wednesday's event to make sure other veterans have access to more resources. The services offered included free cellphones, substance-abuse counseling, legal assistance and health care.

"Along with the VA with other resources out here they keep us living, keep being strong, keep contributing to America," veteran Roman Andre Walker said.

Although Musselwhite recognizes it may hard to ask for help, he encourages his fellow veterans to seek it out, like he did.

"It was terrible being homeless, and the veterans out there they don't want to ask for help, and I personally say, 'ask for help 'cause you're not less of a man or less of a soldier,'" he assured.

The Stand-Down event continues through Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Veterans Welcome Center on Wilshire Boulevard and wraps up at 3 p.m.

Officials say the welcome center will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week beginning Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
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