Local News

March 14, 2009

Homeless population on rise in Dalton

When Wilbert Waller had an appointment at the Department of Family and Children Services on North Thornton Avenue, he walked from his “home” — a homeless encampment on the northeast side of town — no matter the weather.

But a stroke stopped his treks for food stamps and other visits five weeks ago.

“I wouldn’t accept a ride,” the Army veteran said. “Not when I could walk. I had to do it myself. I’m used to doing stuff for myself — I don’t want to depend on nobody.”

Susan Landon, a case worker at DFACS who helps determine a clients’ eligibility for food stamps and Medicaid, confirmed that Waller, 61, would not accept a taxi ride even if the weather was raw.

“He’s very proud and independent,” she said of the Vietnam-era vet.

But one morning Waller woke up inside his tent and couldn’t move his left leg. He asked his fellow campers to call 911 and get him to the hospital.

“I don’t know how he ended up at Gordon Hospital,” Landon said, “but the doctor there said he needed therapy, and that there was a six- to eight-week window (after the stroke) that he needed to get that therapy to retain mobility in his legs. But I’ve called and called, and no rehab facility will take him without insurance or income. There’s just so much red tape — that’s my beef.”

Although Waller’s release papers say he got out of the military in the early 1970s, he had never known he could get veterans benefits. That’s why Landon felt she finally found a ray of hope for Waller when she contacted the local Veterans Administration office.

“Hopefully, he’ll be able to start drawing benefits, and we can get that therapy for him before it’s too late,” she said.

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