PEORIA - At the beginning of this year, nearly 50,000 veterans were homeless in the United States. That may seem like a lot, but that number has dropped 33 percent since 2010.
In the past few years, getting military veterans off the street has become a high priority for the federal government.
Peoria's South Side Office of Concern's contract with the U.S. government doubled this past year, allowing the organization to provide more places for vets to stay.
But some say this attention to vets' homelessness is long overdue.
"Since I was a little kids, I always wanted to be in the military,” Army veteran Pete Ramos said.
Pete Ramos was first joined the army in 1982 at the age of 25.
And when he finished his service, he was expecting big things.
"Every veteran's dream is to live the American dream, all right, which is to have your own business, your own home, your own car, you know, and that's my goal," he said.
But Ramos said he couldn't find the assistance he needed to get back on his feet.
"I hate to say it, you know, but I was homeless for seven years, you know, living on the street, walking the streets like a wanderer," Ramos said.
Just four days ago, a social worker came to Ramos' side.
"She's just put me right where I needed to be to get a hands up, you know, instead of a hand out," he said.
Ramos is now staying at the Veterans Haven, a home to ten other vets that's provided by the South Side Office of Concern.
The organization's vice president Jeff Gress said many homeless people are veterans.
"A lot of times, the things that they're asked to do in the military to protect our freedom, they don't come out the same individuals a lot of time," Gress said.
He is helping put their lives back together.
"Seeing individuals that just struggle with some of the daily things in life,” he said. “If we can be there to help them learn those skills and improve their life, that's a good day"
Both men said the recent attention to veterans' affairs has been a long time coming.
But with nearly 25,000 less homeless vets in the country, they say it's better late than never.
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