LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- Nearly 900 homeless veterans live on the streets of southern Nevada - a number both shocking and heart breaking.
Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other stresses of combat.
For 10 years, U.S. veteran Deon Derby has been pounding the pavement with U.S. Vets, a non-profit group that offers housing, and support for those who served. The homeless camps dotting empty lots throughout the valley are where veteran Deon Derby spends much of his time searching for military veterans who may have slipped through the cracks.
On one particular day he is joined by volunteer Ryan Bailey, who understands all too well what many in homeless vets are going through.
“I was having a lot of anxiety, a lot of insomnia. Different things of that nature,” Bailey said.
Bailey is an Army veteran who wound up homeless in Las Vegas, dealing with emotional issues tied to his years in Iraq.
He is now involved in a workforce program and his goal is to go to college.
While Bailey found help, it's estimated there are nearly 900 homeless veterans living in southern Nevada. They are survivors who quickly learned coming home from a war zone, isn't always easy.
“Certainly with the Vietnam era, unfortunately most of the time they were told, ‘have a cookie you'll be fine,’” said Veteran Affairs clinical psychologist Dr. Heather Silvio.
Silvio helps develop treatment plans for troubled vets and works on whatever symptoms are the most difficult for them.
“You can take 10 combat veterans with PTSD and their symptom presentations will still be somewhat different,” Silvio said.
Just ask retired Marine Staff Sgt. Jason Brooks, who appeared in veterans’ court on a DUI charge. He turned to self-medicating when family problems became too much to bear. “That happened last year when I was going through a divorce and I was in a bad place mentally and once again turned to alcohol to try to solve my problems which it never does,” Brooks said.
Brooks says his children have suffered too. After 10 surgeries related to combat, Brooks is now 100 percent disabled. Transitioning from uniform to stay-at-home dad left him feeling his whole identity was gone.
“You're seeing their growth, and they give up. That’s the hardest part. You keep doing it until there's nothing left,” Derby said.