Motorcycle ride raises money, awareness for homeless veterans

Published: Saturday, July 12 2014 5:34 p.m. MDT

Updated: Saturday, July 12 2014 5:34 p.m. MDT

Bruce Clements joined dozens of other motorcyclists as part of ride to benefit homeless veterans on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

Mike DeBernardo, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — At first glance, they’re intimidating — the leather, the chrome, the noise.

Until you take a few minutes and talk to them.

"Well, we're just people,” smiled Bruce Clements, standing next to his Harley Davidson.

Clements knows how people may think he looks scary on his bike, but the reason why he was riding with many other other bikers Saturday is because being homeless is even scarier.

"It has everything to do with the situation our veterans are finding themselves in these days. More and more of them are without homes," he said.

Clements, like many of his fellow bikers on Saturday's ride, is a military veteran. It bothers him to see what happened to so many of his brothers.

"The people sleeping in parks and under viaducts and stuff like that, that just shouldn't happen,” said Clements, shaking his head.

About 100 bikers raised money and awareness for veteran housing programs Saturday by riding in the “Housing Our Heroes.

The ride started in South Salt Lake, went up I-15 to Ogden, into Morgan County, and back to Salt Lake City for a party in the Valor House on the VA campus.

"The help provided in Salt Lake City has to be on the top level of all the VA help I've ever received in my life,” said Terry Zimmerman, who is staying at the Valor House in Salt Lake City.

The Valor House, Freedom Landing and Valor Apartments are transitional housing buildings for homeless veterans. They are operated by the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City in partnership with the VA Medical Center.

Zimmerman knows what that program is all about. He has been homeless and is getting help for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after having spent the early 80s in the Army.

For him, seeing all these motorcycles is therapeutic.

"For me, I can get on a motorcycle and once I'm out in the hills riding, I don't think about problems, I don't think about issues in my life. I'm just on the motorcycle. I'm riding," said Zimmerman.

If only it was that easy for everyone. Unfortunately, it’s not.

"They've seen a lot and they've done a lot of things," said Zac Pau'u, who works in the homeless program with Salt Lake City’s Housing Authority.

Pau’u says one out of every four homeless people in Salt Lake City is a veteran. Many of them have turned to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their mental issues.

“They are, in large part, the ones who stay homeless the longest because they’re unwilling to ask for help,” he said.

That’s why he’s trying to bring help to them.

Doing a motorcycle ride is way to raise awareness of the problem, and hopefully help find solutions.

"This absolutely means something to me. These guys went out there and fought for mine and my daughter’s freedom. Not all of us served in the military, but every one of us can serve those who did,” said Pau’u.

Email: acabrero@deseretnews.com

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