Jamaine Washington receives food at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital food pantry.

Jamaine Washington, a United States Army veteran of the 82ndAirborne, was stationed in Egypt during his tour from 1977 – 1983. When he returned home, he was expecting to live a normal life. But 10 years ago, his life was suddenly, unexpectedly shattered.

“I had a brain aneurysm,” the 58-year-old recalls. “I was lucky I didn’t die.”

Jamaine spent a month in the hospital recovering. At first, he couldn’t walk or talk and he temporarily lost his vision. After he was released from the hospital, he underwent months of rehabilitation.

Physically, he recovered enough to become independent again. But the aneurysm had other effects. After months of physical therapy and doctor’s visits, Jamaine’s savings were depleted. Unable to work and on disability, he couldn’t keep up with his rent payments and other bills.

“I was riding the L to stay warm some nights,” he said. “I was homeless for a time.”

Jamaine regularly came to the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital for checkups, so when the Greater Chicago Food Depository teamed with the hospital to open a food pantry for veterans inside the facility in November 2014, Jamaine was relieved.

“I’ve been coming to the pantry since it opened,” he said. “It’s helped me out a lot. To be blunt, I wouldn’t have food without it.”

Through the pantry, Jamaine was connected with housing assistance and he now lives in his own apartment near the VA. While he remains on disability, Jamaine no longer struggles with hunger and homelessness. His life is turning around.

“This helped me when I was down and out,” Jamaine said. “And now I’m getting back on my feet.”