Nonprofit makes helping veterans its year-round mission across the country, including in SoCal

Nonprofit U.S. Vets aims to honor American veterans all year-round. It's the nation's largest nonprofit provider of services to homeless and at-risk veterans, with centers across the country, including right here in the Southland.

"U.S. Vets help save my life. They led me into this facility here. Everything just changed," said veteran Tina Knight.

About 11% of the homeless population are veterans, and many like Knight struggle with addiction.

U.S. Vets currently has 30 residential sites and service centers across the country. The largest is in Long Beach at Villages at Cabrillo.

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Founded by CEO and Marine Corps veteran Stephen Peck, the 26 acres of former naval housing is the largest social services program for homeless veterans in the country. It is a therapeutic community.

"Trauma informed care approach and recognizing that in order to, if we're going to address the issue of housing, you know, of course, we have to address everything else that is a barrier to the housing," said Regina Lopez, a veterans and progress coordinator. Lopez is also a Marine veteran, 2006-2010.

The 560 formerly homeless veterans living onsite receive a variety of services and programs according to their need, ranging from substance abuse treatment to employment assistance to permanent housing. But more than anything, it's home.

"They try to make you feel like it's a family here. And we're here to help you. We're here to encourage you. We're here to help you make things change. You know, I'm, I'm truly grateful for them," Knight said.

"What's very special about here is, and when they come in, they come right into the community. You know, they're veterans, doesn't matter what they look like, where they come from, who they are. They're veterans first. and I think that's what sets U.S. Vets apart," Lopez said.

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From Memorial Day to Veterans Day, Jim Heisler plays the taps each night at sunset.

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