Volunteers help veterans feel more at home

On any given night, the federal government estimates more than 40,000 veterans are homeless. Even when those veterans find a place to live, they often need help with basics to make their new houses or apartments a home.

Previously homeless veterans in the Tampa Bay area can get help at the Abilities Guild Veterans Mall in Clearwater.

The mall is open just one day a week and only for those who are referred by the VA hospitals who are transitioning from homelessness to apartment living.

“I spent eight months in transitional housing looking for a place. I finally got one,” said Anthony Moses, who was burned out of his previous apartment. “I lost everything so that’s like starting over.”

The veterans mall is filled with essential items like linens, dishes, pots and pans, and even coffeemakers and toasters. All of it is free.

“I made sure I put together all the little things that probably men wouldn’t think of,” said Virginia Meyer, who founded the veterans mall 11 years ago. “I put together shaving cream, toothpaste, all the little items, a shower curtain, bath mat…the things you need to make it more pleasant.”

The mall also offers gently used clothing for men and women to wear to work or job interviews.

Over the years, the mall and its volunteers have helped more than 1,600 veterans.

“When they go out that door, let me tell you, they have a smile on their face. That’s what makes you feel so good,” said Meyer. “I feel blessed that we’re able to help another veteran.”

For the veterans, the feeling is mutual.

“It means the world to me. It’s not every day you can get this kind of stuff,” offered Moses.

LINK: For more information about the Abilities Guild Veterans Mall, visit their Facebook page.