Homelessness gives man a mission

Jim Grant/Nevada AppealOnce homeless, the Veazey family, Kerry, Sabrina and 14-year-old Keifer use social networking to reach other homeless people.

Jim Grant/Nevada AppealOnce homeless, the Veazey family, Kerry, Sabrina and 14-year-old Keifer use social networking to reach other homeless people.

When Kerry Veazey lost his job as a machinist in 2008,

he was not all that worried about it.

There was plenty of money in the bank to sustain Veazey, 42, his wife Sabrina, 32, and son Keifer, 14. Veazey was certain he would find work. He always did.

"I never had a problem finding a job. We had money in the bank so I never went down and applied for unemployment," he said. "I figured in a week or two I'd have a job. I was sure we were going to get something."

But 15 months passed and the family's savings were slowly dwindling. Veazey decided to apply for unemployment, but learned he had missed the deadline.

Before he knew it, December 2009 came around and their money was running out.

"I got to looking on Craigslist and found a little trailer. The guy wanted $300. It was 41 years old and someone had gutted it out. It just basically had some beds in it. That was like our last resort. I thought at least we'll have this. But I kept thinking, we're gonna get a job, it's gonna happen," he said.

With the last of his money, Veazey paid the rent on their mobile home for December and January.

In February, after a failed attempt to find a job in Prescott, Ariz., the Veazeys moved into the Craigslist trailer and onto his mother's


That arrangement was short lived, said Veazey. He had a falling out with his mother's boyfriend and Veazey dragged the trailer to a friend's property.

The family had sold most of their belongings and put some into storage. But with no income, it wasn't long before they lost the storage unit because they couldn't pay

the bill.

Then one day the car insurance was due. All they had left to sell was their laptop, said Veazey. So as Sabrina sat down in the gutted-out trailer to erase their personal information, she noticed there was an Internet signal from somewhere that allowed them to

get online.

That gave Veazey an idea.

"I know the governor, everyone has a Twitter account, so I thought I'm going to get on there and make some noise and try to get us some help," he said.

While he never got a response from the state's elected officials, what Veazey did find was a homeless community online.

"It was a shock to find there were that many homeless people online," said Veazey.

"We learned more through the computer on how to find help than we did by going to places."

The discovery couldn't have come any sooner, said Sabrina.

"I was having a hard time. I was this close to giving up," she said, holding her fingers an inch apart. "No matter what we did, it just kept getting worse and worse. People kept telling us all the time, it will get better, but with everything we'd been doing it just kept getting worse. I had hit that breaking point. I was done."

Veazey said he didn't know how to talk to his despondent wife to give her hope.

"Nobody would talk to us anymore. Family, friends. I talk to Sabrina all the time and it wasn't helping. I didn't know where to turn," he said.

So he contacted a homeless woman they had met online and asked her to call Sabrina.

She did, and for two hours, said Sabrina, the woman listened as Sabrina cried.

"It must have helped," Sabrina said, smiling. Just talking with someone in a similar situation made it easier to deal with it all, she said.

And Veazey soon discovered in addition to getting support from the online community, he could offer his own support.

He quickly became very active in wearevisible.com, a website aimed at giving a voice to America's homeless.

But Veazey didn't stop there. Despite being in dire straits himself, he began noticing homeless people around Carson City. He admits he never noticed them before, but now they were kindred spirits.

Through the ever-growing followers on his Twitter account, Veazey solicited and got a case of socks sent to him. He carries those socks with him in his vehicle and with every new homeless person he encounters he offers a handshake and clean socks.

He also started to research online the options for people in his position. His research into the VA Homeless Veteran's program landed the family housing. They moved from the gutted trailer into a David Street apartment in October.

On Tuesday, as the Veazeys discussed their situation - Kerry is still out of work, which is stressful, but they recently scored a couch for $9.99 at the Goodwill store, which made them very happy - Kerry Veazey also talked of the plight of his homeless "brothers and sisters," a common mantra on his Twitter account where he's "Alleycat22469."

And now Sabrina, as "bully_lover78," and Keifer, as "keifer1122," are tweeting. Keifer even managed to attract the attention of his idol, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. In October, Hawk sent Keifer a care package of clothes and an iPhone, which Keifer uses to post his Twitter updates.

In his travels around town, Veazey has made it a point to tell the homeless here in Carson City that there is help and compassion online.

In late October, after hearing about Homeless Awareness Day in Reno, Veazey recycled enough cans to afford printing out fliers about wearevisible.com.

He spent the day in Reno and handed out the fliers at the event.

"Once we found wearevisible.com things really changed for us," he said. "Before, we woke up every day ready to give up. We no longer had friends or family to talk to anymore, and these guys (online) were always there to encourage us."

"The positive words were more than just positive words," said Sabrina. "To us it was like family. They wanted to help. They were willing to do whatever it took to help."

Veazey is still filling out applications. He estimated he has applied for more than 60 jobs for everything from pizza delivery to machinist, but he still can't find work.

They are surviving on $500 in food stamps a month, and $307 cash from welfare. They don't panhandle, Sabrina said, because they are making it - just barely - on that.

"We have what we need right now, so that's not fair to take more," she said.

All Veazey wants for himself is a job. His dream job is now community outreach. Though that never crossed his mind when he was a machinist, it seems to be his calling.

All he asks of the world is to understand the magnitude of the homeless situation today.

"Most people didn't see us as people after losing our jobs and home. It's time we open the eyes of people to the problem," he said. "This is not a big city issue, it's a world problem - and problems can be solved."


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