TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Homelessness is a problem that plagues many veterans across the U.S. To help combat that and get homeless veterans the services they need the volunteer organization Tucson Veterans Serving Veterans is holding its annual homeless veterans resource fair.
Each year the organization brings in a handful of service providers for the vets to access at the fair and this year they say they have more service providers than they ever have had, with 85 scheduled to come.
Service providers at the resource fair will offer things like clothes, haircuts, legal assistance, job services, and help with VA benefits. Along with that Tucson Veterans Serving Veterans says it has over 3,000 pounds of clothing that was donated and will be available for vets at the event.
Cliff Wade, chairman for Tucson Veterans Serving Veterans, says the event is a necessity because "the biggest thing is helping these veterans because they deserve it."
Wade knows the importance of getting help and access to resources for homeless vets because he was one himself.
After serving for four years in the military, Wade was homeless off and on, and says he had a drug problem. He ultimately ended up in prison and says the wake-up call for him was hearing from a judge tell him that if another crime landed him in the court room, it could land him in prison for the rest of his life.
Once he got out of prison Wade says he fell into the path he's on now, serving the homeless through community outreach.
"Back in 2009 I was coming out of prison. My P.O. (probation officer) put me in the Gospel Rescue Mission, so I spent 90 days there. But they thought it was being mean to me but it turned out to be a godsend."
While in the Gospel Rescue Mission, Wade met a fellow vet who brought him along to the VA in Tucson. There he says he got access to the health care he needed. From that point on, Wade went on to get a bachelor's degree in engineering, he worked for multiple organizations doing homeless outreach, and he now works for the city of Tucson doing homeless outreach.
Wade says that his experiences and struggles with homelessness, addiction, and incarceration in his past help him with what he's presently doing in homeless outreach.
"I've been where these homeless guys are," he said. "I know what it is. They trust me because I've been there and ... I don't give them any stories. I tell them the truth."
Ultimately, Wade says seeing the successes of those he helps makes everything he's been through to get to where he is now worth it.
"Some of the best things that happen to me are I get calls like, 'Hey, Cliff. Thank you'. And I'm like, 'Dude, you did it yourself. I'm just getting you started."