HOUSTON — For years, it’s been a safe refuge for veterans, but this year, since COVID-19 hit, Camp Hope has seen more people than ever walk through its doors.
“I did 8 1/2 years as a combat medic in the infantry and served a tour in Iraq," said Oliver James Johnson, a veteran who found himself needing help this year.
After struggling with substance abuse, work and falling into what he described as a dark place, a 2 a.m. phone call from camp hope changed his direction.
“I dropped everything I had at the time and drove from Lake Charles, Louisiana, to Houston, Texas, to come to Camp Hope and I’ve been here ever since," he said.
“Everything’s been different about 2020," said David Maulsby, Executive Director of Camp Hope and the PTSD Foundation of America.
He says this summer, they had a record 93 veterans living on-site and brought in mobile housing units to make sure no one was turned away.
“We’ve brought veterans in who the V.A. had to turn away because they had to shut down services,” said Maulsby.
Johnson has now graduated the program but knows the unemployment rate of veterans is tough. Almost doubling from 3.1% last year to 5.9% in October.
For now, he’s focusing on what he can do to help other veterans.
“I would love to give back to this program and be a mentor and helping guys come through this program that I went through, successfully," said Johnson.
There’s a 24-hour hotline for veterans who need help at 877-717-PTSD.