“I’m a military guy. I’m mission-oriented. You don’t give up,” retired Air Force Col. Robert Freniere, who went from being an aide to Gen. Stanley McChrystal to being homeless, tells The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Freniere’s story — the 59-year-old wound up living in his minivan in the King of Prussia mall’s parking lot when he couldn’t find work despite his 30 years in the military and his can-do attitude — has gone viral this week and is shining a light on the stubborn problem of homelessness among veterans. Although the number of homeless vets has dropped 24 percent nationwide since 2009, in the commonwealth, the number has risen a shocking 46 percent, according to the Inquirer. That’s more than 1,400 vets living on the streets in Pa.
With his sons in college, Freniere’s pension of more than $40,000 per year isn’t enough to cover his bills, he explains to the Inquirer’s Julie Zauzmer. When his marriage ended, well, he ended up couch surfing or in his van at night and filling out job applications on public library computers by day.
Adm. James Hogg was stunned to find out about Freniere’s plight. ”That’s crazy,” Hogg tells the Inquirer. “With all his experience, especially in intelligence, there’s got to be a spot for him.”
“My dad’s the most motivated person I’ve ever met in my whole life, and he’s living out of his van,” says his son, Eric. “A full colonel with three master’s degrees? I don’t get it at all — it doesn’t make sense to me.”
It doesn’t make sense to us, either.
Read more about Freniere at Philly.com.