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Homeless veteran population changing

Posted at 8:24 PM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 22:56:38-04

As the homeless veteran population grows in the metro Denver area, one local aid group is saying the dynamic of homeless vets is changing, too.

In the past 10 years, the number of women homeless veterans has doubled in the area, said Justin Sheets, recently appointed CEO of Shelter for Homeless Veterans. According to statistics by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, one in five homeless vets are newly homeless and 20 percent live on the streets.

"They're coming home and not only suffering from the PTSD-type issues and things like that but, they're suffering from issues where they lost family support," said Sheets. "A lot of them have come home, they're not quite sure how to get back into society. They're struggling with that. They don't have the friends or the family to have that kind of a support structure."

Sheets claims that many of the vets are younger, in their mid 20s or early 30s. Shelter for Homeless Veterans isn't really a shelter yet, they're still trying to raise money for a building to house the homeless, but they are helping vets with job training and placement. One of those people is Andre Bujanda.

"Got divorced when I was over seas in Kuwait and when I came back, I came back to pretty much nothing," Bujanda said.

Bujanda is still in the National Guard, but his situation has him homeless for the first time in his life. He's been that way for two weeks, but only spent two days on the streets before he was taken in by a friend. During that time, he met other veterans who are homeless.

"You've got these soldiers that come back and they're using alcohol or they're using drugs. Because they're afraid," Bujanda said. "They come back and they're afraid of America. They come back and they're scared to get on a bus or even walk outside of their door."

Sometimes, Bujanda wishes he was just deployed again. He said veterans often miss the regimented feel of the military and can be lost without that order.

"The military, it kind of changes you. It makes you think different. You get used to everything being taking care of," Bujanda said.