Albany, N.Y. – Saturday night on the lawn of the VFW 6776 veterans and community members brave the cold temperatures to sleep outside. It's their first annual Freeze Out. They're hoping to raise awareness and donations for homeless veterans who have been sleeping out in the cold.
“Out of the homeless people that walk the streets in the city of Albany and Albany County one out of four are a veteran. They served in a war. They served on active duty and they're out there in this cold,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy.
Just a short time ago after serving in the Marine Corp for more than two decades Bar Porter found himself alone and without a home for many cold winter nights.
“I was up in Saratoga at the time. All the shelters were full. There was no place to go,” said Veteran Bar Porter.
As he prepared to take part in the Freeze Out to help spread awareness for homeless veterans the feeling became all to familiar.
“I had my old military sleeping bag. Same one I'm going to use tonight,” said Porter.
Being a former homeless veteran has pushed Porter to fight back against the alarming statistics.
“Fifty percent of the homeless are Veterans. They served our Country. They shouldn't be treated this way,” said Porter.
“You just try and find a spot to hunker down where nobody's going to bother you. Nobody's going to try and steal anything from you and you just basically don't really sleep very well and just make it through the night,” Porter said.
It's because of that raw truth that brought out local veterans Saturday. They will spend the night outside showing support for their former service members who are without a warm place to stay.
“We haven't forgotten and we've got their back,” says Commander of VFW 6776, Jim Ader.
And that they did Saturday as they separated and folded piles of winter clothing, table after table stocked high awaiting those in need.
“If they need something they can come to us,” said Ader.
“You might have that old jacket laying around that you don't wear anymore, the gloves or the hat. Donate it because someone needs it. There's always someone out there that needs it,” said McCoy.
As they prepare sleeping bags and a fire pit on the front lawn they hope by sacrificing one night out in the cold others will sacrifice too and give back.
“We'll continue to accept donations so hopefully seeing us literally freezing out will inspire people to maybe dig a little deeper and come up with a couple more items for us,” said Ader.
“We're going to be here one night. It's the least we can do to bring awareness to their cause. They're out here every night,” said Veteran Maurice Catel of Coeymans Hollow.
If you would like to help out you can drop off donations. They are looking for winter clothing as well as outerwear. You can bring your donation to the VFW 6776 in Albany at 525 Delaware Avenue. There will be an all you can eat breakfast for $10 at 10 A.M. at the VFW Sunday morning. You can also drop items off at the breakfast.