BALTIMORE — When veterans come home they sometimes struggle to find peace and a path.
On Tuesday night in East Baltimore a group of veterans who ended up on the wrong side of the law celebrated graduation from a program that changed their future.
Baltimore City District Court Judge Halee Weinstein knows the importance of helping veterans because she is a proud veteran of the United States Army and self-described “Army Brat”.
“The most important thing an officer can do is take care of their soldiers," said Weinstein.
The smiles in this courtroom on Tuesday are a result of an idea created in that same room 4 years ago.
During a docket reading for homeless people she noticed that a good chunk of them were veterans, so she put the wheels in motion to start a Veteran Treatment Court.
“I believe without a doubt that we are saving lives,” said Weinstein. “We’re helping veterans return to being productive members of our community, and we could not be more proud of that.”
Veteran Asrat Geleta said the program helped him with housing, mental health issues, and to get back on his feet after he got in trouble.
“I was able to get help and be successful, I’m on my way to be a productive citizen,” said Geleta.
Melissa Fitzgerald with Justice for Vets, a national organization that provides legal help to veterans, said that programs like the one in Baltimore are crucial.
“These courts work, we see every single day veterans who have gotten their lives back who have gone back home to be parents to their children,” said Fitzgerald. “To be children to their parents to be civic assets because our veterans are of our nation’s greatest and most valuable civic assets.”
Often times veterans don't like asking for help and feel like society outcasts.
A big help for them is the service dogs in training who are by their side for everything from the meetings to their court appearances.
In all the program has helped around 80 veterans and counting turn their lives around.
“I was able to sleep,” said Geleta. “I don’t worry much and if I have something to worry about I just write it down and all I have to do is make a phone call or come see them every Tuesday and they are able to help me out.”
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