INDIANAPOLIS — Michael Parks, a Navy veteran who served in the late 1980s, wakes up every morning at 3 a.m. to take the bus to work because he doesn't have a car.
He said most of the time he just sleeps on the 4:40 a.m. bus until he arrives at work around 6 a.m.
Parks expressed his gratitude to the bus drivers and said without them, "I couldn't get to work."
Parks is a cook at a senior living facility and a graduate of Helping Veterans and Families (HVAF) programming.
Parks is currently living in transitional housing at HVAF and getting ready to move out.
"I have to find an apartment within the next two months, and because I am on the bus it's difficult," Parks said.
He said the only time he's able to view apartments is when he passes them while riding the bus.
"I don't even have time to write the phone number," he said.
Parks was also not able to take on overtime or extra shifts because he lacked a reliable form of transport. But an HVAF supporter recently donated a car.
"It's unfortunate that this need exists, but it's a privilege for us to help meet that need," said Ret. Brigadier General Brian Copes, president and CEO for HVAF. "A warm safe place to live, food in our homes, and reliable set of transportation are huge barriers to self-sufficiency and quality of life for the veterans we serve."
The person who donated the car asked Copes to identify a veteran in need.
"Our case management team then looked through a handful of vets in our program and evaluated the need, and in addition to the need, the ability to support the donation," Copes said.
Whoever was to get the car had to be able to cover necessities like gas, insurance and oil changes. Copes said Parks fit the bill.
Parks said he didn't believe it when he received a phone call from HVAF that said he was getting the car.
"They contacted me and said 'Congratulations you got the car,'" Parks said. "Matter of fact, it was my day off and she woke me up, so I thought it was a dream and I woke up like, 'Did she say I won a car?'"
He said he then reached out to HVAF hesitantly to verify whether his dream was a reality. Thankfully, it was real life.
"I guess it still hasn't settled in," Parks said, laughing.
Parks said getting the car has instantly changed his life. He recently picked up a second shift and now has to be at work at 2 a.m.
Copes said Parks is a great example of the HVAF program at work.
"If you've got work, work equals stable income. Stable income equals housing, which is what we strive for as we seek to serve either homeless veterans or veterans at risk of becoming homeless," Copes said.
"The whole purpose of it [the car] is to get me back and forth to work," Parks said. "If there's opportunities — especially for overtime — I'd like to take the opportunity to get the overtime."
Copes said that it takes "patriotic donors" like the gentleman who donated his car to Parks.
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