roy-foster_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

RIVIERA BEACH — Roy Foster is well these days.

In 2009, Foster was among the top 10 Heroes presented by CNN for his heroic works on behalf of homeless veterans. Such worldwide acclaim made him an instantly recognizable figure and gave him an unimagined honor. It was a long, hard journey to the spotlight.

 After leaving the military back in 1980, Foster became an alcohol and drug addict and found himself homeless. But Foster overcame such challenges in life.

In 2000, Foster, 55, opened Stand Down House, through his Faith*Hope*Love Charity that is a home for the many homeless veterans who, like him in an earlier time, have no place to call home.  More than 1,200 veterans have come through the doors of the 42- bed facility in Lake Worth, Foster said, receiving all the help they need to keep them from going back to sleeping in cars, in the woods, behind supermarkets, or on cardboard boxes on the street corners.

“For our heroes to be living in these conditions is unacceptable,” said Foster.

The men receive food, shelter and help learning how to get back on their feet and overcome the personal problems they faced after service. Many are plagued with addictions and difficulties transitioning to civilian life and even blending back into their families, who, in many instances, no longer understand them.

The number of homeless veterans is an atrocity, says Foster. According to a CNN report, one in every three homeless persons has served in the military.  And, on any given night, between 150,000 and 300,000 veterans are homeless, according to the Veteran’s Administration.

Stand Down’s website reports that, in the course of a year, between 500,000 and 840,000 veterans are homeless at any given time.

That issue  and  Foster’s commitment on behalf of homeless veterans touched so many people that Americans around the world voted him into the top 10 of the nation’s Heroes, selected from among thousands of worldwide nominees in the annual CNN contest. The top 10 “CNN Heroes” were featured in a star-studded program on CNN on Thanksgiving night.

Now, the city of Riviera Beach has teamed up with Foster to address the issue of homeless veterans in Palm Beach County. On Saturday, June 4, the city will host Stand Down 2011 and expects between 2,000 and 3,000 veterans to come out and learn about services available.

The city and the organization are urging all veterans and their family members to come to the free event which will feature music, food, games and a play area for kids, along with representatives of 40 vendors and social agencies.

Volunteers will provide free food, clothing, health screening and haircuts, as well offer assistance with enrollment in programs offering benefits, IDs, food stamp applications and housing assistance.

A veteran’s court will also be available to help veterans with renewing driver’s licenses and other court issues.

Riviera Beach City Council Chairwoman Judy Davis, who served three years in the U.S. Navy, said the idea to host the event resonated with her. 

“When you’ve been in the military, you’re like family. You have that common bond,” she said.

Davis collaborated with Foster to present Stand Down, a national movement often held in cities across the United States, according to Foster. Davis praised the city council for joining her in the effort to bring the event to Riviera Beach.

Foster, a Georgia native, joined the U.S. Army right out of high school. He began drinking and experimenting with drugs during his six years in the military. When he left the Army in 1980, his drug use escalated as he sought to adjust to civilian life. Eventually, he said, his life spun out of control. 

After hitting rock bottom, Foster entered a program through the V.A. Medical Center, but it was the  faith-based Faith Farm Industries that  helped him on the road to sobriety.

Today, he is married to Tairetha, he has five children and says life with his grandchildren “is a joy.”

When he started Faith*Hope*Love, he based it on scripture in the book of Corinthians that refers to faith, hope and love.

Besides Stand Down House, the charity has opened a facility for female veterans who are single parents, as well as a resource center, First Stop Veteran’s Resource Center, for all veterans.

Foster was also instrumental in getting Veteran’s Court operational in Palm Beach County. It is one of only two such courts offered in Florida, he said. His organization provides mentors for those who go through the Veteran’s court.

Daphne Taylor may be reached at daphnetaylor_49@hotmail.com.

IF YOU GO TO
WHAT: Stand Down 2011
WHEN: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday, June 4
WHERE: Dan Calloway Sports Complex, 1420 W. 10th St., Riviera Beach.
COST: Free
CONTACT: For more information on Stand Down House or any other veterans services,
call 561-968-1612 or visit standown.org.