Medford, Ore. — NBC5 News is partnering with Access to start a community discussion, and bring you an in-depth look into the lives of people who are homeless, have been homeless, or who are very close to it. In week 12, we’re meeting Henry Winters, a disabled veteran who spent more than eight years being homeless. Now, he volunteers his time at access to help those in need.
“Today, we are handing out, they call them senior boxes, food boxes for seniors, and also for disabled,” Winters said. “They line up here.”
Every month, he’s on the sidewalk outside of Access, handing out food to those who might otherwise go without.
“We’ll do 50 or 60, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less,” Winters said.
But no matter how many cars line up, or how many boxes go out, Winters says he’s always happy to help.
“I know what it felt like to get help from others, and I know how much that helped me to gain back control of my life,” Winters said. “I want to see other people have the opportunity to receive that same thing.”
A disabled veteran, Winters struggled with alcohol, and in turn, anxiety and depression. His addiction ultimately put him on the street.
“I was scrambling for food and shelter, pretty much off and on for about eight years,” Winters said.
Living in both Virginia and Nevada, he says homelessness followed him everywhere he went.
“Things seem to just kind of cascade, and the next thing you know, you’re just in this hopeless state, and you stop caring about things,” Winters said.
Eventually Winters moved to Southern Oregon, only able to escape homelessness by facing his problems.
“I moved to the Rogue Valley when I went into treatment, at the VA Source, drug and alcohol treatment,” Winters recalled.
Now ten years sober, Winters is working to help others in the same way, with a drug alcohol counselor certification, and a new bachelor’s degree.
“I went back to college, and got my degree in social science, sort of as a prelude to some of the things I’ve been through, and the appreciation that I’ve had for the people that had so generously helped me,” Winters said.
Winters is on the job hunt, ready to put his new skills to work. But he says even when he’s employed, he’ll make time to come back to Access, and hand out food boxes.
“Homeless people for the most part are misunderstood, by the general public, and they’re just, there really isn’t enough community support to get all these people help,” Winters said. “I know it can be done, it’s just not in place, there are agencies that are working toward this, but it’s actually a community effort, I believe.”
To learn more about local resources, visit soclosetohomeless.org.