COVINGTON, Ky. — The past few weeks, temperatures dropped and plunged the Tri-State into a deep freeze. During this time an Army veteran by the name of William Bonner said he found himself sleeping in Devou Park in Covington, Ky.
“It was 27 degrees that night, so I took the rest of the funds I had bought some food, protein, slept there,” Bonner said.
He gives credit to his survival training in the Army to get him through the cold nights.
Born in Hamilton, Ohio, Bonner would spend 10 years in the United States Army. He deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom and said the day before he came home he lost a fellow soldier.
“The truck behind me was about 80 meters behind me just got hit by an IED and the very next day we’re getting packed up to go home,” Bonner recalled.
His transition coming out of the Army mirrored so many other soldier’s stories -- one day you’re serving your country, and the next you’re just out in a new land that doesn’t seem as familiar as it once did.
“Some people get culture shock when they go there, my culture shock was coming back home,” Bonner said.
He admits over the years there were times were he found himself in between living situations. After a recent breakdown in a long-term relationship he found himself out on the streets. Bonner said he understood how the demons of his post-traumatic stress weighed heavy on his partner -- who was also a veteran.
“I had some PTSD issues with sleep waking up in the middle of the night screaming, crying and honestly I think it was too much for her,” he said.
Bonner stayed with a friend for a bit but eventually the welcome mat was exhausted. He said his supervisor at his work found out about that he was sleeping in the park and on the streets, and helped Bonner get into an emergency shelter.
“There were a lot of hungry civilians," he said. "I gave my food away to them they needed it more than I did."
Bonner maintained his job as a foreman for Caliber Improvements and that has helped him survive during this difficult time.
Word within the homeless shelter community travels fast and a fellow veteran at the homeless shelter in Covington, Ky. introduced Bonner to the Welcome House.
“We have four veterans in the program and we currently have 10 beds so I have six available slots for veterans who are deemed eligible,” said Kevin Dorning, who manages the VA program within Welcome House.
“As a veteran myself I love helping our fellow brothers in arms,” he said.
Through a VA grant Welcome House is able to now house 10 veterans in a building specifically dedicated as veteran only. Another VA grant will allow for modifications to the Gardens Center building at the corner of Greenup and East 11th Street.
“Get the wall lockers get some dividers, make it a more personal space for the veterans,” Dorning explained.
While that will take place in April, Dorning said the work is underway towards helping veterans who are already staying at Welcome House to get their life on the best path moving forward.
“If an individual doesn’t have a job we help them get employment, if they already have a job we make sure they have secure transportation to get there,” he said.
For Bonner, it’s a chance to start anew with skills to fulfill a transition from the services he said he wasn’t given when he left the Army in 2016.
“Along with the program this has been helping me out a lot staying focused,” he said. “Something like that is physical proof that they we haven’t forgotten about you and that’s grateful.”
If you need the services of Welcome House reach out to them directly by phone (859) 431-8717 or their website welcomehouseky.org.