Students give back to homeless veterans

Monday, April 11, 2016

By Megan Milligan

Nearly 48,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, estimates the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). That’s 11 percent of the homeless population.

The 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report indicates that approximately 1500 homeless veterans live in Philadelphia alone.

This is why the Philadelphia Veterans House hosted a week-long event serving breakfast to veterans. The event, which took place between March 14 and 18, was sponsored by DCCC and hosted by the Student Government Association.

About 15 students came out during spring break to help prepare meals. All the food was bought by Sgt. Tyshon Bullock, an army veteran, student, and president of both the DCCC Military Club and SGA.

Dressed in full military uniform, Bullock and secretary of SGA Anyssa Medley, began at 6:30 a.m. beating eggs for hash brown casserole. They were soon joined by several other DCCC students.

“I love [helping],” said Chidi Pelham, a nursing major and volunteer who also served different varieties of sausage, eggs, and English muffins with other students.

After the food was done cooking, a bell rang at 8:00 a.m. sharp. Five residents, both former and current, came down to a freshly set table to eat their meals. They thanked the students for cooking as they ate.

Army Pvt. Randolph Shaird, spoke of how city shelters can be dangerous, and he was “on pins and needles” staying in them, but the Philadelphia Veteran House provides safety for its residents.

After breakfast, the residents and volunteers took a group photo on the front porch, right above the house’s banner.

Bullock has been organizing the event for the past three years, and was happy to report that this year they received more care packages donated by students for homeless veterans than the previous years.

The Philadelphia Veterans House is located on Baltimore Avenue in the University City area of Philadelphia. It is a home to anywhere between 10 and 17 veterans who would otherwise be homeless.

Their website describes it as transitional housing, a place where veterans can get on their feet and have access to resources.

According to a 2013 study, 90 percent of honorably discharged homeless veterans end up on the street because of no family support and a lack of job training.

Petty Officer 2nd class Tim Szerlik was “scared to death” when he first came to the Philadelphia Veteran’s house. “I was facing homelessness and I had never faced that before,” Szerlik said.

Now he is living in his own apartment and holding down a full time job.

According to Szerlik, it was the program that saved him.

Supporters have said the house has many success stories coming out of it, such as Lance Cpl. Erast Willoughby, who entered the program in 2013 as a homeless man looking for help. Now he holds a position working in the administration of the house.

Brigid Gallagher, the director of the Philadelphia Veterans House, is a behavioral mental health specialist and is trained to help deal with the various mental illnesses that can plague veterans.

“This place takes people who are responsible and gives back so freely to that which gave so freely to you,” said Szerlik.

Anyone can volunteer anytime at the Philadelphia Veterans House. Cooking breakfast is always needed, according to Bullock, as well as care packages containing toiletries such as toothpaste and deodorant, and warm clothes. For more information on how to volunteer, visit

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