Once Living Under a Bridge, Army Veteran Has a New Lease on Life

HUD-VASH homeless Veteran

Army Veteran Alex Sangster was barely staying alive under a Fort Lauderdale bridge. Help from local law enforcement, community partners and VA helped save his life and move the 64-year old cancer survivor into a home of his own.

Alex Sangster was barely surviving under a Fort Lauderdale bridge. Help from local law enforcement, community partners and VA helped save his life and move the Army Veteran into a home of his own.
Alex Sangster’s contagious laughter and smile touched all who cared for him during his time in the Operation Sacred Trust Supportive Services for Veteran Families program for homeless military Veterans.

Army Veteran Alex Sangster, 64, was barely surviving under a bridge when COVID-19 hit South Florida.

I often wondered about the memories that kept Mr. Sangster alive during the long days and nights he spent living under that bridge.

He’d served his nation at home and abroad during the final years of Vietnam, returning to Miami at a time of strife against which his honorable history of service and sacrifice offered little protection from poverty, discrimination, and the challenges of being a young black man without a job, money, or family who could help.

Drugs increasingly hijacked a life that so often felt hopeless; homelessness, hospitals, and prisons became his decades-long reality.

As COVID-19 descended on South Florida, a local police officer reached out to Operation Sacred Trust for help. Immediately, Mr. Sangster was in an emergency hotel with other Veterans at the highest risk of dying from the novel coronavirus.

Those months in the VA-funded Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program included time for Mr. Sangster to tackle his demons, develop new friendships, and get help pursuing benefits he’d earned as a soldier. Professionals from Miami VA’s HUD-VASH housing program worked tirelessly with the Operation Sacred Trust team and Mr. Sangster to identify and secure housing that could provide a safe, stable, permanent home for this proud Veteran.

This week, Mr. Sangster left the hotel for a HUD-VASH supported apartment with his name on the lease, the start of a new chapter, and an opportunity to begin living life in ways that for decades felt beyond impossible. The Operation Sacred Trust will never forget our time together, how Mr. Sangster touched our lives, and our gratitude to the HUD-VASH Care team that will now work regularly to ensure the continued safety and well-being of such a courageous soul.

Alex Sangster smiles upon the arrival of a microwave at his new apartment.

Mr. Sangster is one of more than 1,000 South Florida Veterans served by Operation Sacred Trust this year. His resilience, strength, and near constant smile touched each of our team members involved in his care.

We pray for his health, happiness, and that he finally has a very real opportunity at life itself.

In the video clip below, Mr. Sangster shares (explicitly) about surviving under a bridge, facing his addictions, and hopes for the future.

Meet Mr. Sangster and learn part of the Army Veteran’s remarkable story of survival.