SEMINOLE, Fla. (WFLA) — A Navy veteran found himself on the front lines of a long wait for a PTSD-related claim with the VA as soaring rent prices left him in a homeless shelter.
Lakeith Amir-Sharif came to 8 On Your Side when his rent in Seminole skyrocketed by about 50 percent, right before he received an eviction notice.
“And then you’re going to kick us out?” he said, referring to his former landlord. “You’re going to kick us out like that?”
He said in some cases, the personal items of his neighbors who were also veterans were discarded into this courtyard.
Amir-Sharif ended up in the St. Vincent de Paul transitional housing shelter, but it got better from there.
First, a nearly 35-year wait for disability benefits tied to service-related PTSD and frequent headaches finally came to an end.
Amir-Sharif broke out into joyful laughter when asked if the VA had stepped up on his disability claim.
“Yes.” he said. “They granted it. I mean, that’s crazy man.”
Amir-Sharif said he is doubtful the benefit would have been approved without the 8 On Your Side report about his plight.
“No,” he said. “Never.”
Amir-Sharif also secured housing after dozens of denied applications.
“The biggest problem is everyone wants you to make three times the average income,” Amir-Sharif said. “Low-income people don’t have that.”
He said while the VA does have available housing vouchers, Bay Area rents have outpaced what the government will pay.
“The VA will pay a certain amount. They have what’s called a ‘reasonableness’ rent,” Amir-Sharif said. “And most of the rent around here is unreasonable for what you get for your money.”
The 58-year-old, who works for a public defender’s office and is going to college to get a degree, praised his new landlord, Carterette Management Group.
“I don’t know where I would be with them,” Amir-Sharif said. “They’re building affordable housing.”
During his journey, Amir-Sharif said he was shocked to see an often-hidden side of homelessness. Children living in the shelter, with parents who are also Veterans searching for affordable housing.
“It’s disheartening to see because on the bottom floor we have families there. The parents, or single moms are veterans,” Amir Sharif.
He paused, fighting back emotions.
“You hear me,” he asked, before another long pause. “That’s heartbreaking, man. That’s heartbreaking.”