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Chili Cook-Off To Benefit Homeless Veterans

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- On this Veterans Day, take a second to think about this figure: some 400 to 700 veterans in our area are homeless. WJZ's Mike Schuh reports a group that helps vets with addictions is asking for help.

A place that used to dispatch men to fight fires is now home to men trying to extinguish their demons. It took James Hardy 25 years to nearly kill himself and two years living at the Baltimore Station to change it.

"My problem was I was addicted to crack, heroin, weed," Hardy said.

Now, his name is on the first office near the front door.

"See, the whole thing is you've got to retrain your brain again, and it takes two years to do that," said Hardy.

Ninety-one veterans live at the Baltimore Station -- 46 nearby -- all are homeless.

"If someone's been homeless for a long period, 16 or 17 years, it's really unrealistic to think that they can get back on their feet in 90 days. That's why we offer a program that's designed for up to two years," said John Friedel, the Baltimore Station.

But those two years are expensive -- food, housing and treatment adds up to $2 million a year.

Half a million dollars has to come from foundations and donations -- which brings us to Chef Russell Jackson and his secret.

It's what he's making that will help keep the Baltimore Station afloat. He is a contestant in a chili cook-off.

"It's all for the program," Chef Jackson said.

At their big fundraiser on Saturday at the Gameday Warehouse, it's the Baltimore Station's chili cook-off. They hope to raise $60,000.

"If we weren't around, there would be 355 men on the streets of Baltimore without a structure, without the support and connection to care," said Friedel.

A connection that brought James Hardy back among the living.

"I ain't going to say dead, but I know I'd probably still be in addiction because I didn't know how to get out," he said.

Baltimore Station is now trying to help veterans with long-term mental problems by working to become a licensed mental health care provider.

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