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Accused Huntington Bank Robber Says Issue Of Homeless Vets Needs Attention

Reported: Mar. 17, 2014 10:21 PM EDT
Updated: Mar. 17, 2014 11:14 PM EDT

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BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (Kera Mashek) Charles Henderson comes right out and admits to robbing that bank, and says he deserves to be punished for his actions. But he hopes his struggles shed light on what thousands of veterans across the country are dealing with.

Twelve percent of the country's homeless population are veterans. While the VA offers several programs to help combat this chronic issue, some vets say those programs just aren't cutting it.

"I did what I had to do to try to survive. All I wanted was something to eat and a place to sleep that night to get out the damn cold. I didn't mean for it to turn out the way that it did, and I can't take it back.>

Charles Henderson says his troubles started in December, when he was evicted from subsidized housing. Without a home and transportation, he also lost his job. Henderson claims he exhausted every option to find help, but says after three months, he just gave up.

Eyewitness News asked, "Was robbing a bank and putting people in danger the right answer to those problems?"

"No, but I didn't put nobody in danger. I walked in and walked out. I feel sorry and I know I got to be held accountable for it," Henderson said.

He says all he hopes now is that his desperation sheds light on a serious problem. Henderson is a Vietnam veteran and claims to suffer from anger issues and post traumatic stress, and he also says that the VA hasn't provided him needed mental healthcare and other services.
Feeling hopeless, he turned to crime and was hoping to make some easy cash by robbing the Huntington Chase Bank on Friday.

Eyewitness News asked, "Were you just that desperate?"

"Yes I was just that desperate," Henderson said.

Lance Bell is a Gulf War veteran and he, too, suffers from PTSD. He's attempted suicide three times and has spent time in federal prison on drug charges. Bell knows Charles Henderson personally and says he completely understands how incredibly desperate you can get when you feel like the organizations designed to help you aren't.

"Willing to give your life not even for your cause, but you're willing to go to war or come to this country's aid at a moment's call but in your darkest hour, that's when your country leaves you and it makes you feel hopeless," said Bell.

But Bell says his trials just made him more determined to turn things around. He's now getting help with disability payments and is staying clean, even helping with Narcotics Anonymous. Bell hopes Henderson, and other veterans struggling with their health and homelessness, understand there are people that will help. It just takes patience, and sometimes setting aside the soldier's pride, to get that help.

"After every storm there is a rainbow. The only problem is you've got to hold your head up in order to see that rainbow. So there's hope in everything. Faith is the belief in the unknown, the unseen, you know. Have faith. It gets better," Bell said.

Of course the VA says it wants to do everything in its power to help veterans. The local veteran's assistance program is a good resource to find help. You can reach them at (304) 558-3540 in Charleston and (304) 399-9395 in Huntington.

As for Charles Henderson, he says he hopes to get counseling and maybe even job training while in prison, to lead a better life in the future.

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