Disabled war veteran one of 25 waiting for a home at Hahnville homeless complex

Byron Joseph Sr., 56, is not a homeless stereotype.

Dressed in a crisp red shirt, the U.S. Army veteran and former postal clerk today receives disability payments and lives with his mother. Though he said the arrangement works well, he is excited about the proposed homeless veterans housing on Byrd Lane in Hahnville.

“Everyone wants to have their own [space],” he said.

Joseph’s problems began in Baton Rouge, where he was living as a result of Hurricane Katrina. It was there where he got into a car crash, resulting in the amputation of his right leg below the knee and the insertion of a metal rod in his left leg from the knee down. A metal plate had to be placed over his left ankle.

In spite of receiving no notification from his doctors to do so, Joseph set out to walk.

“Once they fitted me with the prosthetic, I just sorta got up and went,” he said.

But this was not enough to get Joseph back into the life he had known before the crash. After the accident, Joseph was left unable to work, and initially went to live with his sister. It wasn’t until about a year following the amputation that he learned he could receive disability assistance through Social Security. The meager payments and medical assistance, however, made it financially difficult to live independently.

He does not receive a pension from his time with the United States Postal Service.

Today, Joseph uses a scooter to make longer trips throughout town. Repeated use of his legs leaves him with pain, for which he sometimes takes medication. He said he has to monitor his weight carefully, and make sure to get off his legs regularly to avoid too much pain.

A housing project, spearheaded by the Veterans Housing Outreach Ministries, proposes to help people like Joseph by providing 25 apartments specifically to homeless veterans.

“It was a like a light shining when I heard about what they are doing over there,” Joseph said.

Joseph, who has lived in Hahnville his whole life except for his 1975 to 1978 active duty stint with the 82nd Airborne Division, points at surrounding buildings, noting the cousins and high school friends who live nearby. Though he has not met any of the others in line for an apartment, he said the project is a good idea “even if it serves people from beyond Hahnville.”

The property itself, owned since 2006 by Lisa Carey according to St. Charles Parish Assessor’s Office records, has mowed grass and lush banana trees throughout, but the windows remain dark and vacant. For the time being, this building will serve neither homeless veterans nor any other tenants, pending approval from the St. Charles Parish Planning and Zoning Department.

“Cut the red tape,” said Joseph of code violations holding up the development, “get it done.”

 

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