'New Beginnings' program gives homeless veterans opportunity to rebuild their lives

As Veterans Day nears, a local non-profit is doing its part to help homeless veterans get back on their feet. For decades, New Beginnings of Tampa has provided housing, dental care, and other services to veterans in need. This week, three veterans are graduating from the program and getting apartments of their very own.

Nearly 30 years ago, Pastor Dr. Tom Atchison and his wife started New Beginnings of Tampa which is a non-profit that helps homeless veterans rebuild every aspect of their life.

"The reason we're able to worship at our church is because veterans made that happen," Atchison said.

Thomas Riddell is one of the veterans.

"My story is a story of success," Riddell said.

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He served 6 years in the Navy and was primarily stationed in the Indian Ocean near Iran. Just three months ago, he lost everything in a house fire. The VA helped connect him with New Beginnings of Tampa where he's been staying ever since.

"A lot of these veterans have gone through some hard times. They've had some rough situations because of what they saw. They saw things that no human should have to ever see and so with all their issues and the different things, they need help and so that's where we're stepping in to help them," Atchison said.

The organization gives veterans a temporary place to stay. They also provide meals, help them apply for disability, or put together resumes along with mental health services, dental care, and laundry services.

"They have a program they've set up, right? Where if I need to get somewhere, if I need to do something, they Uber me to this place and that place," Riddell said.

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The 137-bed complex is always at full capacity with a long waitlist. It's why their ultimate goal is to set them up with the tools they need to succeed outside the complex when the time's right. For Riddell and two others, that time has come. 

This week, he'll be moving into his own apartment.

"God bless every one of them and I thank my country for helping me through this," Riddell said.

This Veterans Day, Atchison hopes people continue to appreciate veterans for their sacrifice.

"The most important thing you can do to help a vet is showing them love and caring," Atchison said.

New Beginnings also houses female veterans, and they have 27 total that they are currently housing.