Families open up their hearts – and their homes – to serve veterans

Families open up their home to serve veterans
Families open up their home to serve veterans... 04:14

Watching Bill Sutton, you wouldn't know the 53-year-old combat vet couldn't walk when he got to where he lives now. The double amputee said he'll be running soon because instead of going into a home, he found a home.

Many veterans who served our country are now in need of someone to serve them. Nearly 38,000 veterans are homeless and more than 82,000 are in nursing homes. Some American families are stepping in to help, and opening up their homes as part of an innovative Department of Veterans Affairs program.

"There's no way I'd go to a nursing home," Sutton told CBS News' Chip Reid.

Now he lives under the same roof as the Rufing family, who opened their home and their hearts to serve those who served. The Rufing's have six children in addition to the three veterans who are living with them.

Six home-schooled kids, three vets, one dog and too many chickens and cows to count. Their care is also a family affair.

"Depending on the veteran, we may have to toilet them, bathe them, dress them, shave them, feed them," Sarah Rufing said.

Remember — that's in addition to six kids.

"When we first got our first veteran, after two days, she's like, 'I can't do this,'" Troy Rufing said of his wife, Sarah. "And now, we've been doing it over four years, so we're doing good."

Troy built a whole new wing on their home four years ago. For the three disabled veterans, the house is an alternative to a nursing home.

"There are so many families that aren't emotionally ready, financially ready, and this gives them an alternative," Sarah said.

The VA's Medical Foster Home Program allows vets to live in private homes for about half as much as costly nursing home care. And the $2,400 they pay, on average each month, helps their host families, too. Sarah said the ability to stay home is a "blessing."

The idea came from Troy's family. Nearby, his brother Todd houses two veterans who are learning to live with the loss of a third.

VA doctors and nurses make house calls and music therapists help keep their minds sharp.

Bill Sutton said there's only one thing missing. More kids.

"Oh, they need at least 23," Sutton said.

"You have to open your home and open your heart to those veterans … It's a sacrifice. It's service. But they deserve it," Sarah said.