‘I wouldn’t treat a dog the way I was treated’: When Jeff Waybright got out of the military he spent years in and out of homelessness. A chance encounter while panhandling took the Hamilton veteran off the streets.
Sheila McLaughlin Reports:
HAMILTON – Dan Biondo and his wife were in their car getting ready to pull out of the Amvets parking lot on Ross Avenue when a tall, thin man with a white beard and long gray hair under a veterans ball cap tapped on the window.
His clothes were stained and dirty. He looked undernourished. He asked for money so he could buy something to eat. From there a story unfurled that illustrates just how difficult it is for veterans in Butler County to get help from the county’s veterans services commission.
According to state data, the Butler County Veterans Services Commission has a track record of turning away 42 percent of the veterans who apply for emergency assistance. Jeff Waybright, the Army veteran panhandling outside Amvets Post 1983 that day in September, was one of them.
For veterans in Greater Cincinnati, whether they get help from their county depends on where they live, an Enquirer analysis shows. In 2012, the Butler County agency spent $169,500 on emergency aid but refused it to 168 of 391 veterans or dependents.
Veterans in Warren and Clermont counties were more likely to get help. Warren County denied only 4 percent of emergency aid applicants in 2012; Clermont County’s figure was 8 percent. Hamilton County denied 31 percent of emergency assistance applicants for the same year. The state average was 7.4 percent.
“They said I could not get no help no more,” said Waybright, who has been mostly homeless since 2009, after he lost his truck-driving job to a drunken driving conviction.
“There’s a whole lot of veterans out there that they are doing that to. It’s pitiful. It’s like we don’t exist,” Waybright said.
The agency’s director, Curtis McPherson, said he won’t just hand out money to anyone who asks for it.
For 59-year-old Waybright, home has included brief, awkward stays with friends, or in abandoned buildings or a U-Haul truck that he’d crawl into at night after the rental lot closed and leave in the morning before it opened again. He once found shelter under the High Street bridge in Hamilton but left because he said there was too much drinking and drugs among the homeless there.
When times were good – when Waybright was able to get work through a temporary service – he’d stay at cheap hotels until the money ran out.
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