Once homeless veteran now helping others who served

Jesse Walker is a Marine who served in the Vietnam War. He helps veterans in the Goodwill re-entry program.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 7:29 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A Vietnam War veteran was once homeless but was able to get some much-needed help. Now, he’s working to help other veterans back on their feet.

Jesse Walker found himself at rock bottom after returning home from war and working for years at a paper company.

“I did pretty good, you know, coming back up, but then my father and mother died,” said Walker. “I kinda backslid a little bit. I had lost my mother and my wife. They all passed.”

With their deaths weighing heavy on his heart, Walker says he turned to the streets - giving up his home and his job.

Desperate for a second chance, he says a nurse reached out to him wanting to connect him with Goodwill, which gave him a job and a place to stay.

“She asked me, ‘If I bring you to Goodwill, would you stay?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ll give it a try, ya know? See how it goes,’” Walker recalls.

He stayed at Goodwill’s dormitory in Woodlawn for two years and began working in the Goodwill dock area right away.

In 2007, he was promoted to supervisor, overseeing 22 employees.

Now, 20 years later, Walker still works part-time for Ohio Valley Goodwill.

Program director Susie Skeens says they help homeless veterans re-enter society and connect them to employment and housing opportunities.

”When we intake a veteran into our program, there are multiple barriers to their housing success,” said Skeens. “So, it could be touched by the justice system, low or zero income, physical, or other debilitating conditions that they deal with.”

Ohio’s Housing Assistance Council estimates that 633 veterans in the state experience homelessness each year.

The council also estimates that about 7% of veterans live in poverty.

Walker is hoping to help lower those statistics by leading by example.

“You kind of enjoy being here, meeting friends, different people, and all that,” says Walker. “So yeah, it means a whole lot to me. I come every day, I don’t miss a day.”>

It’s something Skeens says continues to inspire other veterans looking to change their lives.

“Just to see him progress and to do the different things that are meaningful to him, it is an example to others because it doesn’t just begin and end with his employment; It begins with his caring and his attitude towards life in general.”

Skeens says the program helps between 60 to 65 veterans each year.

Click here to find out more about Goodwill’s services for veterans.

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