ELLIS COUNTY, Texas — In rural Ellis County people can see for miles, but often miss what’s in plain sight.
“They don’t know that we’re dealing with this,” said Army veteran Lauren Andrade. “They don’t know that people are dying outside in this weather.”
Andrade says even in rural parts of Texas there are so many homeless veterans.
It’s a problem Andrade didn’t even see, until she started giving away money each time she saw a homeless person.
“Ninety percent of the people were veterans,” she said “That’s when I started making plans to make the nonprofit.”
Her nonprofit, Serenity Veteran’s Village, officially opened a few years ago providing housing and other resources like fresh food for homeless veterans.
Serenity exists primarily on donations and Andrade’s life savings.
“If I have the ability, it is my belief that I am supposed to do what I can for others,” she said.
Andrade says, this time of year, it’s particularly important. When temperatures drop below freezing, as they did a few weeks ago, it’s far too dangerous for anyone to sleep on the street.
“I don’t want to turn on that TV and see that another homeless veteran passed away because it’s cold,” Andrade said. “That shouldn’t be happening.”
To make sure it doesn’t happen, Andrade’s trying to fill an empty lot in Palmer with as many single room homes as possible.
Each home is a cube that’s only 64 square feet, but for veterans, it’s like they’ve been given the world.
“Yeah, fortunate is not enough of a word for what I am right now,” said Army veteran Robin Hoole.
“I have no idea what we would’ve done,” said Kayla Clendenen, whose dad served in the Navy.
Chris Rung, Serenity’s chief marketing officer and a Navy veteran himself, said the nonprofit gives veterans more than just a place to lay their heads.
“It’s bringing a family back that you might not have,” he said.
Andrade says she’ll always be a part of that family and will give everything to help.
“This is where I’m meant to be,” Andrade said. “This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
She may have left the Army, but she’ll always be called to serve.
For more information on Serenity Veterans Village, visit their website.