By: John Cuddy – Jan. 2024

His name is Charlie.

Recently, a fellow Veteran, a US Army Ranger, Jack, who currently works as a policeman, told me the story of Charlie. Charlie is also a US Army Veteran, and he is currently homeless. As Jack told a small group of men and women, mostly Veterans or Active-Duty Military, Charlie’s story, there were tears in his eyes and his voice wavered.

Living in a homeless camp is what set Charlie apart from the general population of the county and drew the police officer’s attention to him. Charlie, despite his living situation, presented a neat, clean, sober, appearance, and the same cleanliness was displayed around his tent and living area as well.

The small group of experienced police officers, assigned to conduct outreach in the homeless camp, observed his behavior, attitude, and manners, including no noticeable signs of a substance abuse problem.

How did Charlie end up living in a tent, full time, and year-round? The US Department of Housing and Urban Development, (HUD) reported that the number of homeless American citizens rose to over 500,000+ in 2023.

The economic restrictions imposed by our federal, state and even local governments, on Americans during COVID 19, led to a national rise of over seven percent in the number of homeless Americans, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Charlie was in this 2021-2022 rise in homelessness among Veterans.

On a single night in 2022, roughly 582,500 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States. Six in ten (60%) were staying in sheltered locations—emergency shelters, safe havens, or transitional housing programs—and four in ten (40%) were in unsheltered locations such as on the street, in abandoned buildings, or in other places not suitable for human habitation.

Charlie moved to the area to accept a new job. He is single, healthy, but without a strong support network of family and friends. Charlie simply loaded what he owned in his car and moved to a new city.

He then started his new job, rented a one-bedroom apartment, and in 2020, COVID hit. The 2020 median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is currently $1,500 in the county where Charlie pitched his tent. In the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts, the website, places a one-bedroom apartment at $2,267. Charlie, like many homeless Americans, moved from his apartment to his car, then, one day his car, with all his belongings inside, was stolen.

In the county where Charlie lives, 314 cars are stolen per every 100,000 county residents. Significant statistic if your car is one of those stolen. In Charlie’s case, his car not only contained everything he owned in the world, but his automobile was also his only shelter.
The number of Veterans experiencing homelessness declined by 11 percent (4,123 fewer people) between 2020 and 2022.

In 2022, 40,238 fewer Veterans were experiencing homelessness than in 2009, when this data was first reported, a drop of nearly 55 percent.

Are you a Veteran, or do you know a Veteran, who is homeless or experiencing housing instability? If you are a Veteran who is homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness, we strongly encourage you to contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at (877-424-3838) for assistance.

Veterans facing a housing crisis in Massachusetts should contact their town’s Veteran’s Agent as soon as the problem manifests itself. The story of Charlie proves that one American can make a difference.

The police officer who encountered Charlie on patrol, got him off the streets, and into Veterans transitional housing with the help of the Veteran’s Administration. One police officer, Jack, used existing resources and programs, to assist a brother Veteran.

A few years back, this writer heard a staff member of the New England Center and Home for Veterans give a talk to the Chamber of Commerce on the homeless Veterans situation in Massachusetts. The message was clear, Americans cannot help by handing cash to corner panhandlers claiming to be homeless Veterans, on the street. Americans can help by sending that same amount of cash, to the New England Center and Home for Veterans, PO Box 961500 Boston, MA 02109.

The Valley Patriot would like to challenge all our readers to send a few dollars to the New England Center and Home for Veterans. The statistics used in this article came from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The story you are reading of a police officer and a homeless Veteran is true, but their names are left out to protect their dignity and privacy.

“It is our belief that homelessness can be eradicated in this generation.” Pamela Williams, Founder, Journey out of

We are looking to interview all Merrimack Valley US Military Veterans of all eras, ranks, and branches. The Valley Patriot invites any citizen of the Merrimack Valley to reach out, contact, and help us record and preserve your family member’s service to our Nation for future generations.

The Merrimack Valley’s American Legion Posts ask all World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veterans, to call (603) 518-5368 and sign up for an Honor Flight to the Memorials in Washington DC! Veterans of all eras are asked to go the American Legion’s Web site, and join the American Legion, our mission is working with Congress, Veterans, and the Community, preserving our Veteran’s Benefits for future generations and serving all Veterans and their families.

John Cuddy

John Cuddy served in the US Navy’s Construction Battalions (also known as the Seabees) after retiring from the US Navy; he earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in economics from the University of Massachusetts on the Lowell Campus using the GI Bill. He has been employed in Logistics at FedEx for the last 26 years. If you know a World War II, Korean War, or Vietnam War Veteran who would like their story told, please email him at ◊