Everyday Hero: Euseke Rodgers, helping the homeless

Updated: Jun. 30, 2019 at 9:09 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - After going to war, some military veterans come home and find themselves homeless.

This month’s Everyday Hero knows it can happen really easily, because it happened to him. Now he’s trying to help others out of homelessness.

As a soldier, Army Corporal Euseke Rodgers served three combat tours in Iraq, and one in Afghanistan. He came home safely but adjusting to civilian life wasn’t easy.

Army Corporal Euseke Rodgers (second from the left) in June 2002 prior to deploying overseas on...
Army Corporal Euseke Rodgers (second from the left) in June 2002 prior to deploying overseas on three combat tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.(Matt Hampton (custom credit))

“You don’t get training in the military about how to deal with situations that you encounter after you get out,” Rodgers said. “It’s basically - best of luck.”

But Rodgers didn’t have the best of luck once he got out. He lost his civilian job, and around the same time the bank foreclosed on his landlord which put Rodgers out on the street.

“I was homeless for eight months to where I was having the eat by any means necessary. Sometimes digging out of trash cans in order to eat, or just staying in abandoned houses to get up out of the elements,” said Rodgers. “It was a harsh experience, but it was a humbling experience. Because it let me know that at any point in time, any and everybody can lose everything they have.”

Rodgers isn’t the only veteran to come home from war only to find himself homeless.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development takes a point-in-time estimate every January. HUD’S 2018 snapshot counted 37,878 homeless veterans nationwide.

The survey found hundreds of veterans in Heartland states don’t have a place to call home on any given day.

“A lot of times when veterans become homeless the biggest thing is our pride,” said Rodgers. “We hate asking for help. And sometimes it gets to the point to where you just break down. And that's part of 22 veterans a day that end up committing suicide because they can't deal with the pressure. They can’t deal with the fact of being a soldier to conforming to regular civilian life again. I found myself at that point to where I had thoughts of suicide because I fell into that point.”

“I felt ashamed, I felt embarrassed. The people who looked at you as heroes, now you’re homeless. They feel sorry for you, but then they go about their lives and you’re forgotten about. So as far as how you could end up like this, it’s real easy.”

Veterans organizations helped to give Rodgers a hand up out of homelessness. Now he’s determined to pay that kindness forward.

Rodgers spearheaded the first ever The Forgotten Homeless Awareness walk in Cape Girardeau’s Capaha Park to open people’s eyes to the issue of homelessness – not just among veterans but across the board.

“I was one of those people who used to say hey bum – why don’t you just get a job? “ said VFW Post #3838 Vice Commander Matt Hampton. “I went to a meeting one time, and I was moved. I was embarrassed by my own opinions. When I heard Zeke start talking, I was like, ‘man, what can I do to help?’ Because I felt bad about the way I used to feel and not being sensitive to those people and those issues. It’s not that easy. It’s not as easy as just get a job and you’re fixed.”

Rodgers feels that if he can just help people see the problem, he can help the community do something about it.

“I see homeless people here in Cape Girardeau, so I want to do it everything I can to help them out - even if it’s just raising awareness. Or, going out and feeding the homeless. Giving them blankets. Socks and underwear. Anything I could do to help out. That’s what I want to do,” said Rodgers. “If I could help just one person … I feel like I’ve accomplished something.”

If you’d like to help with Rodger’s mission you can donate to the ongoing fundraiser for The Forgotten Homeless Awareness effort through Cape Girardeau VFW Post 3838.

If you know someone who should be recognized as an Everyday Hero, click here to make your nomination.

Copyright 2019 KFVS. All rights reserved.