Left in cold by VA medical center, homeless veteran finds kindness in strangersBoston Globe
October 22, 2018
VA officials said they have no record of an encounter that night between Franks and VA security officers. Under the Bedford VA’s policy, any veteran who turns up homeless can be sheltered in the urgent-care area if no other beds are available, agency officials said.
CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF Navy veteran Norman Franks spent four months in a cramped tent in a campsite on the grounds of Hanscom Air Force Base. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)BEDFORD — At 2 a.m. on a chilly May morning, Norman Franks sat slumped in a chair in a TV lounge at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center, fighting for snatches of sleep under the glare of ceiling lights, he said.
A Navy veteran of the late 1970s, Franks had led a troubled life. His addiction to crack cocaine led to a long series of armed robberies, which led to 15 years in prison. Now, he found himself homeless.
Franks wanted a clean start, but first he needed a place to live. With no good options, he made his way to the Bedford veterans complex, an outpost of a sprawling federal agency that takes its motto from Abraham Lincoln’s promise “to care for him who shall have borne the battle.”
Instead, he spent the night in the woods, shivering under a tarp. He stayed there for four of the next five nights, then spent the next four months in a cramped tent in a campsite on the grounds of Hanscom Air Force Base.
As the weeks passed, Franks fell deeper into despair. But slowly, unexpectedly, he was reclaiming some of his life, thanks to a devoted group of strangers — members of an American Legion post, volunteers from a Catholic parish, even from a congressman’s staff — who felt obliged to aid a veteran in need.
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