The Rev. Morson Livingston asks for community help
By Kyle LoJacono
LAND O’ LAKES — The recent economic situation has made it a struggle for many people to stay in their homes, and military veterans are no exception.
“Veterans sometimes have a tough time adjusting to life after serving, and unfortunately, many end up homeless,” said the Rev. Morson Livingston, of St. Jude’s Church in Land O’ Lakes. “The current economic problems have caused even more of our brave men and women to the streets, and it just hurts me deeply when I see them struggling.”
Livingston, 50, is a retired Army Captain who served as a Chaplain in such places as the Bahamas, Hungary, Bosnia and Kosovo. He retired from the army in 2001 and moved to Land O’ Lakes in 2007.
“To help homeless veterans we decided to have a special day on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) to help them as much as we can,” Livingston said. “We’ll have a barbecue and clean water, portable showers, care packages, a barber, some clean clothes and fun activities like a fun station and a clown for the veteran’s kids. We’ll also have a flag ceremony to honor them and all U.S. veterans.”
Livingston is the founder of the St. Jude’s Homeless Veterans Resource Center, which is sponsoring the flag ceremony. The event will be at the Rotary Concourse Pavilion in Land O’ Lakes, located at 15323 SR 52 near Safety Town.
The center had a similar event on July 4 in Odessa, where about 200 homeless veterans and their families from across Pasco County, including Land O’ Lakes, Lutz, Dade City, Zephyrhills and Wesley Chapel, attended. The center’s target is for 1,000 veterans and families to come to the Veterans Day event.
The center works by the slogan “veterans working for veterans” because many that work with the center are veterans, including center treasurer and program director John Carland.
“Unfortunately, many of these homeless veterans have just lost guidance in their lives after leaving the service,” Carland said. “In the service, we had a hard and strict schedule that everyone had to follow. Once a lot of veterans leave, they don’t have that anymore, and many don’t adjust well. So, we understand that and try to help them find that guidance as a friend.”
Carland is a retired Coast Guard Captain who served for 33 years before retiring in 1992. He lives in Holiday.
At the event, the center will help the veterans with their physical needs but will also put them in touch with organizations that can help them turn their lives around, which include: alcohol and substance abuse service centers; homeless shelters; the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System; and the VA James A. Haley Center in New Tampa.
“Outreach programs like the one St. Jude’s is doing helps connect homeless veterans with our center,” said Wendy Hellickson, supervisor for the Healthcare for Homeless veterans program at the VA. “At the center, we can offer a number of life and metal health councilors to assess how to help them best. It can take as many as two years to begin to help them depending on how willing someone is to trust us.”
For more information on the hospital, call their main office at (813) 972-2000.
The flag ceremony and barbecue will begin at 11 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The center is looking for anyone willing to help during the event. Those interested should call Livingston at (813) 951-2288 or e-mail him at .
“We know times are tough for everyone, but when we look around, it is worse for these fellow human beings,” Livingston said.
Livingston is also asking for anyone who has an unused building that his church can use as a meeting place on Sundays and to store donated items for the veterans to call or e-mail. He said it is difficult for him to keep all the items donated in his home and would like a larger area for donations. He also is looking for more space to host his services.
While the church has already helped hundreds of homeless veterans and their families, one veteran made a special impression on Livingston.
“A man named Jessey, who is from Pasco County, came to our flag ceremony on July 4 and told me that no one else had ever cared about him after he left the service,” Livingston said. “He told me that we were the first ones who cared enough to help him and told us how much it meant to him. It was so sad and yet we felt so happy because we were able to help him at least a little.
“Helping these men and women on the days like Veterans Day lets them know we haven’t forgotten what they have done for