Tucson vet paying it forward after being rescued by his drug dealer

Tucson vet paying it forward after being rescued by his drug dealer

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A Tucson veteran is paying it forward to other vets after being at rock bottom for most of his life.

Jon Wayne Lewis, now 71, became homeless after completing his service in the U.S Navy. Lewis lived on the streets for nearly 40 years.

Lewis said his life revolved around drugs and looking for the next place to sleep.

It wasn't until he was 64 years old that he received advice from an unusual source. His drug dealer told him to seek help at the local VA department.

"My dealer, the one that was giving me the heroin and cocaine, she said Jon, you're killing yourself. Please go to the VA," he said.

Lewis underwent substance abuse treatment and received help for his PTSD and depression.

"I had a lot of  anger. Now I don't have half the anger when I started this trip. God didn't promise me an easy path, so I still struggled but not as bad as I did when I was on the street," he said.

With the help of the Gospel Rescue Mission and the VA, Lewis was able to get back on his feet. He now collects furniture and donates it to veterans to
help furnish their apartments or homes.

"Because I saw the need. And I know where I'm going now. I've always believed in Jesus Christ. I hated God for a long time. But if you're actually in
the apartment on the floor without a good mattress, like I was or anything in that apartment, and you don't have any money, that's rough," he said.

He said he wishes veterans were more aware of the resources available. The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System is hosting a resource fair on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the R.E. Lindsey Jr. Auditorium, Building 4 at 3601 S. 6th Ave. Tucson, AZ 85723.

Veterans and current military members can learn about the different programs for them and their families.

MOBILE USERS: Download our Tucson News Now app for Apple and Android devices.

Copyright 2017 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.