Nonprofits, VA help homeless veteran find and furnish apartment

      NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - After serving overseas, Gene Stepp battled homelessness, alcoholism, and unemployment. Thanks to the help of the VA and a local nonprofit, Stepp is turning his life around.

      In 1979, Gene Stepp was enlisted into the United States Air Force.

      "The Air Force grabbed me when I was in high school," said Stepp.

      He spent four years traveling the world as a telecommunicator, repairing phones and setting up international communications with the Pentagon.

      But in 2013, Stepp found himself struggling with life.

      "Just went through a divorce, last two years, job loss, two of them and then losing my mother," said Stepp. "Was staying living with a family member and things got really rough for me."

      Stepp says he turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

      "I started isolating myself. And, when you go into isolating it's not a good thing," he said.

      Stepp says his drinking led his family to kick him out onto the street.

      "It was the best thing my family did for me," said Stepp. "I went right into the VA, to the emergency room. I told them I needed help."

      With the help of others, Stepp found his way to Crisis Ministries, now known as 180 Place.

      "I was in a small room. It was a 80 foot by 60 foot room with 14 beds, a cubicle and with 13 other vets," said Stepp. "There was a camaraderie there. We were all vets. Most of us were sick and we needed help."

      Stepp says while there, he began sobering up. He was then connected with two nonprofits, Family Services Inc. and One Less Homeless Vet.

      "When they told me that I could get a place on my own and they would help me for a few months, I was ecstatic," Stepp said.

      Family Services Inc. helped Stepp find a new apartment. The organization takes care of rent and utilities, while One Less Homeless Vet provided Stepp with start-up home supplies from Target.

      "Those items that I picked out -- I needed the curtains; I need the items for the bathroom. I needed dish towels," Stepp said.

      Stepp says he is humbled and grateful for both organizations.

      "I firmly believe that God put other people in my life to help me," said Stepp. "Going from homeless, off the street temporarily, staying in a homeless shelter and then from there transitioning into my apartment, it's been like a 180."

      Stepp is now on a road of recovery and has advice for the thousands of veterans battling the same issues he fought.

      "Surrender to the people that can help you. All you have to do is surrender and go get help," he said.

      Stepp is now working and seven months sober.