This 71 Year-Old Is Hiking Across The Country To Raise Awareness Of Veteran Homelessness

Our veterans are facing many challenges in this country, and one of the main issues that affects them is homelessness. Bringing the problem to the forefront is the mission of 71 year-old William Shuttleworth who decided to walk 3,000 miles across the United States to raise awareness of homelessness among veterans.

Department of Housing and Urban Development said that in 2018, there were around 39,000 veterans who were homeless on any given night. When William heard this, he knew he had to do something.

“I’ve been walking 20 miles to 25 miles every day, just because I enjoy it, since I’ve been retired, “ he said right before he started his journey. “And since I walk 20 miles every day, why not make that a straight shot across the country, and engage people in conversations that have a real meaningful purpose.”

He will begin his walk near his house in Newburyport, and he will then walk four and a half hours west to Haverhill.

“And then I head toward Route 2 and go all the way to Williamstown, into New York, through Troy, … go across the state of New York and into Pennsylvania, on into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and then California,” he explained.

William has a close personal connection to veterans, as he worked as a Air Force psychologist during the Vietnam War. Last year, he managed a campground in California with his wife, and they often allowed vets to stay for free. It was talking to these veterans at the campground that inspired William to make this journey.

“What I would try to do is gather food and wood so that they’d have a place to stay and they’d be safe and protected and supported and loved,” William said. “We had regular visitors, and sometimes they’d get hooked on opioids and other drugs. They have a lot of PTSD, a lot of mental issues.”

Andrew McCawley, president and CEO of the New England Center and Home for Veterans in Boston, said that he could not be more proud of William for what he is doing.

“It’s admirable that this gentleman would do this, and I think the most important thing that would could come from his personal journey across this country is a sense of awareness,” he said. “Although veterans still experience homelessness, no longer are they necessarily experiencing at a higher rate than the general population. But it does remind us that our work is not done.”

William has been told by his doctors that his body may not hold up during the journey, but he is determined to do it anyway.

“If you lived every day with everything that could go wrong, a person would never get out of bed,” he said. “I embrace this as a gift to myself and hopefully as a gift to the people that need it most.”

Find out more about William’s journey in the video below.

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