Nation's first statue for homeless veterans unveiled in Cherokee County

Cherokee County is now home to the first statue in the nation to bring awareness to homeless veterans in Georgia and across the country. The statue depicts a homeless male and female soldier to educate the public that homeless veterans make up a large portion of the homeless population.

In Cherokee County, there are very few resources available for veterans, but the American Legion Post 45 is helping veterans find housing and stable work through the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program.

Jim Lindenmayer works with the American Legion Post 45 in Canton and said it is a passion project of his to help veterans restabilize their lives after they serve. "Our goal is to help the vets as much as possible from the first time we find them, through the claims process, to getting themselves back on their feet and off the streets," said Lindenmayer.

Lindenmayer says it's tricky navigating through helping veterans with PTSD, mental health issues, or addictions. The first step the veteran must take is working towards getting clean.

"These guys volunteered their time or were drafted, and it's time we give it back to them," Lindenmayer said.

On top of assisting the veterans in their mental recovery, finding housing and stable work is another obstacle Lindenmayer supports the veterans through.

"These guys struggle," the West Point graduate said. "Being in combat is traumatic, but being homeless is just as traumatic for them to be on the street," said Lindenmayer.

Army Veteran Jay Phillips said he has struggled with homelessness for the past ten years. In the last few months, and with help from the Cherokee County VA and American Legion Post 45, Phillips is getting back on his feet.

"I've got a job at Goodwill," said Phillips. "Been there almost 90 days, haven't missed a day. If it hadn't been for Jim, I don't know where I'd be," said Phillips, who served in the military from 1983 until 1986.

Phillips is in the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program, which provides him housing, transportation and support to get veterans mentally and physically succeeding.

"I'm hoping once I get through this program, and now I'm working at Goodwill that I'll have my life back together again soon," said Phillips. 

Phillips has two children he is hoping to reconnect with. Lindenmayer is working with Phillips to get to his daughter's college graduation.

The volunteers with the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program hope success stories like Jay's and the statue now present in Cherokee Veterans' Park will remind us all to support those who have served the country.

"The people who go out there and see it, you start to see the hope in their eyes, they think "lucky me, I could be one of them," said Lindenmayer.

Jim Lindenmayer left us with the question: "You've gotta put yourself in those shoes and think 'If this happened to me, who'd be there helping?'" Lindenmayer hopes more people in the community will answer that call and help support the veterans struggling with homelessness all around us.