WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Thursday is a very important day as it is a day to honor those who served our nation, Veterans Day 2021.

Special events were held across our region to honor their service.

This Veterans Day is also a day to remember the challenges many veterans face after they have served, including the fact, many end up homeless. But a new effort is underway to give those veterans a helping hand.

It may come as a surprise to many people in our area, but at any given time, there are as many as 200 or more veterans living on the street. Some are living along the Susquehanna River, under bridges.

Eyewitness News talked with members of a local group determined to get those veterans off the street.

It’s called the FSB Initiative Inc., which stands for Forward Support Base Incorporated, and its mission is:

Our basic effort is to go out into the community, go under bridges, like I said, anywhere we can find a homeless veteran. Parks, soup kitchens. Our goal is to talk with them, find out what their needs are. If it’s drugs and alcohol, get them help with drug and alcohol counselors. We have medics, we have veterans service officers who go with us. Our goal is to get them that day off the street,”

Chaz Kraynak, President, FSB Initiative Inc.

Army veteran Chaz Kraynak was homeless.

“In 2016 I ended up becoming homeless and what happened was I was basically wandering around. Luckily I found out about a program from somebody else who was homeless,” Kraynak said.

He launched the effort in 2018 in Delaware by forming the nonprofit group. He is now bringing the effort to Northeastern Pennsylvania.

He says the reasons are many as to why veterans end up homeless. Job losses, substance abuse, as well as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

“In this area, it’s a big deal. There are more homeless veterans than we actually know. Nationally there are over 40,000 homeless veterans and at anytime 1.4 million at-risk veterans,” Kraynak said.

The effort is totally voluntary. They have a trailer loaded with supplies they take to the streets for the immediate needs of the homeless veteran.

Fellow Army veteran Allan Gribble volunteers and helps run the operation. As a former police officer, he says for many people, homelessness is out of sight, out of mind.

“It’s definitely out of sight, out of mind. 95 percent of people just never actually think about homeless vets or civilians unless you see them along the roadside or a homeless camp somewhere,” said Gribble.

This is something the group wants to change. They have already started outreach efforts in our region.

The nonprofit group goes out into the community and helps homeless veterans with resources to assist them to get off the streets and rebuild their lives.