Freedom Station Gives Injured Military Vets A Place To Call Home In San Diego
Friday, March 2, 2012
Aired 3/2/12 on KPBS News.
Lots of San Diegan's are getting on the Freedom train to help injured military veterans avoid falling into homelessness.
SAN DIEGO Lots of San Diegans are getting on the Freedom train to help injured military veterans avoid falling into homelessness. The Freedom Station provides transitional housing and recovery support to those who've served during the war on terrorism.
"We've got Marines and Navy living here and we're hoping to get some Army guys," said Retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Juan Cano.
He was the first person to call Freedom Station home last year. Gunny Cano, as he's often called, served 22 years in the Marine Corps before settling in San Diego.
"They're providing the care they would want to provide their family member. And that kind love comes over to us at Freedom Station and Balboa Naval Hospital," Cano said.
During deployments to Iraq, Gunny Cano survived multiple bombing attacks and was awarded a Purple Heart. He was treated for his injuries at Balboa Navy Hospital. "One of the best things I can say about Freedom Station is I come out and I've got 11 of my best friends as neighbors," he said.
Sandy Lehmkuhler has been a Navy wife for 31 years and the Freedom Station was her idea.
"You pull into a train station and you change the direction you're going in and that's what we want for our warriors," she said.
Lehmkuhler also credits the generosity of volunteers and businesses who've donated furniture, appliances, time and money. "Its a community effort, its all about San Diego and its all about San Diego taking care of San Diego warriors," Lehmkuhler said.
There are eight cottages and four apartments at Freedom Station, including wheelchair-accessible rooms for the disabled. Residents pay a portion of the rent and are encouraged to save the rest of their money for permanent housing.
Lehmkuhler believes this is the missing link to keep young injured vets from homelessness. She's looking at another site like this to expand the program with help from the community.