News: Local Army Reserve unit reaches out to homeless veterans
By Staff Sgt. Sheila Holifield, public affairs specialist
Army Reserve Sustainment Command
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Army Reserve Sustainment Command in Birmingham, Ala., is making it part of their unit outreach to help local homeless veterans. As many as 200,000 American veterans are homeless, and statistics show that close to 1,000 of those dwell right here in Birmingham, Ala.
As Lt. Col. Rachel Coggins, chaplain for the ARSC, looked for organizations to support that benefit both soldiers and veterans, she came across a local nonprofit called Three Hots and a Cot. The organization is founded by Veterans for Veterans.
“I reached out to them and began building a relationship to see how we could best help,” said Coggins.
Over time, Coggins was able to learn about the organization and their story.
The inspiration for Three Hots and a Cot started in 2009 when JD Simpson and his wife were living in Northern Virginia and attended the presidential inauguration. They were moved by the sight of homeless veterans sleeping on benches at the World War II Memorial. Simpson, a veteran himself, wanted to help them but didn’t know how.
Soon after the inauguration, the company Simpson worked for went bankrupt. With the sudden increase of time on his hands he sought to help his fellow veterans. Simpson contacted the Veteran’s Administration and asked which part of the country needed help most. He was told Birmingham, Ala.
Simpson was familiar with Birmingham, after all, it was his hometown and the place where his mother once owned a soup kitchen and helped the homeless.
This opened the door for Simpson and his family to answer his new call of duty and return to his birthplace. Alongside his wife and a friend, they formed Three Hots and a Cot.
Currently, the nonprofit organization has seven houses across Birmingham that helps homeless veterans get off the streets and back into the world.
“After learning the story of the organization, it was clear to me that it would be a good one to support,” said Coggins. “We want them to feel they are not left behind.”
Three Hots and a Cot serve as many as 35 veterans, and sometimes their families, throughout Birmingham.
Since bringing the organization under our wing, we have collected toiletries and food to support our fellow veterans, added Coggins. Recently, the soldiers of the ARSC conducted a canned food drive and presented their donations to Three Hots and a Cot.
“Without hearing their story, one cannot know why a person is homeless,” said Coggins. “I like to remember the phrase by John Bradford, ‘there but by the grace of God go I.’ It reminds me that I too could be in such a situation, and if it were me, would I not need a hand up?”