Back to Heroes & Awards

Larry Geringer and Tacoma Rescue Mission shelter veterans

Helping homeless vets is a retired Air Force officer's mission

Larry Geringer heads up the Veterans Resource Center and works to help veterans receive their VA benefits. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Larry Geringer's office used to be a small storage closet.

On the desk there's a telephone and an older looking computer. In one of the desk drawers are some snacks.

In a corner there is a coffee maker on a small counter.  Under the counter are a few drawers holding some socks, underwear and toiletries.

On the door is taped an American flag and below it a sign that reads, "Veterans Resource Center."

The sign went up four years ago this month when Geringer started the center.

The center, or VRC, receives no federal or state funding. The staff receives no pay.

Out of this small room in The Rescue Mission in Tacoma comes a large amount of work and Christ-centered dedication in helping homeless veterans.

Approximately 20 to 25 percent of the homeless who utilize the services at The Rescue Mission are veterans.

"My goal is that I don't want to see another veteran holding up a cardboard sign saying he's homeless," said Geringer, a Vietnam veteran and Rescue Mission board member.

Working with and helping homeless veterans is a third career for Geringer.

"I served for twenty-six years in the Air Force; I worked for twenty-six years at Boeing," he explained.

As to the third career - the helping of homeless veterans - Geringer said, "I am just trying to help, to reduce the time needed for these veterans to receive their benefits and straighten out their lives."

With his small band of volunteers, Geringer's mission is to help homeless veterans gain access and assistance available to them from the Veterans Administration (VA) at American Lake.

"They have earned these benefits," he said.  "Many don't know that they have them."

The process for helping homeless veterans begins when they enter The Rescue Mission and find themselves outside the door of the aforementioned little office.

"We provide emergency housing while the veteran works with the VA," explained Geringer.

Veterans who are homeless in Pierce County cannot find shelter in any county, state or federal facility.

They have to apply for shelter at locations such as The Rescue Mission in Tacoma.

Veterans are housed with the general homeless population and at some distance from the Veterans Administration facilities at American Lake.

Much of the help provided focuses on getting the veteran from the VRC and to the VA on American Lake.

One of the unique resources available at the VRC is a licensed homeless outreach social worker, provided by The Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, who staff the VRC each Monday from 3 to 6 p.m.

Geringer and his staff have worked with various agencies, for example, to provide bus passes for the veterans to make the trip from Tacoma to the American Lake site.

Working with the VA and other agencies, the expectation is that homeless veterans will have developed an individual improvement plan within 90 days.

"The most rewarding feeling is to see a veteran who was previously staying at The Rescue Mission, working and living in a Veteran's Affairs program, or on their own making a new life," Geringer wrote recently.

"Every veteran deserves some level of respect and hope for a better future."

The Veterans Resource Center is in The Rescue Mission at 425 South Tacoma Way just south of downtown Tacoma. Hours of operations are 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information about volunteering or donating items, email or call 253.383.4493 ext. 1122.

comments powered by Disqus