Reggie Jefferson, 58, a homeless U.S. Army veteran, was once a professional singer. He relocated to South Beach, Florida in 1994 after his wife passed away. Reggie says he ended up homeless, sleeping on the beach, listening to ocean waves crash before him. His life was spiraling downward and he returned back home to Indianapolis for help with alcoholism.
Mark Lykins, a case manager with HVAF's Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, realized that transportation served as a major barrier for verans. He began a bike program for our homeless veterans at HVAF which is how the two men met.
Since the bike program began in June of 2016, Mark has collected 37 bikes. Monetary donations have allowed him to purchase locks for the bikes, as well as tools to refurbish them to help homeless veterans without transportation.
Thirty-three bikes have already been given to homeless veterans, including Reggie, while others have been used for parts when deemed beyond salvage.
Reggie said not having a car during his week of living homeless really gave him a better understanding of how difficult it is for the homeless to apply for employment, go to the grocery store and medical appointments as well as look for housing.
“Bikes make it easier,” Reggie said.
“Transportation is a big issue in Indianapolis,” Mark said. “And employment is essential for Reggie. He’s not housed in the middle of town and so his bike has cut his commute from a one hour and 20 minute walk to a 20 minute bike ride.”
Mark said the criteria for a homeless veteran to receive a bike is that they need to be able to prove veteran status and have housing issues.
“Then when they don’t need it (bike) anymore, they can give it back,” said Mark, who in turn can give the bike to another homeless veteran without transportation.
Mark said it can take anywhere from days to months for a homeless veteran to get a job depending on an individual’s circumstances. He’s thankful for generous donors and hopes to receive more bikes. To donate a bike to HVAF, contact Volunteer Coordinator Robin Close at (317) 951-0688.
HVAF also accepts monetary donations. Donate online at hvaf.org.