Rodriguez, originally born and raised in Bushwick, served in Iran back in the early 80s. After he returned in 1986, his mother passed away. That was when he said things took a turn for the worse.
“That was when I got caught up in the chemical dependency and drug addiction,” Rodriguez said, adding that he then began to spiral into a 15-year phase of addiction.
When he moved to the Borden Avenue Residence, Rodriguez said the addict in him first expected that he would be in and out on the street in no time.
After the months began to pass and he still didn’t have a job, that was when he realized that things take time, and every little bit of help goes a long way.
“With God’s strength – with his help – it keeps me on that narrow path,” he said, adding that he has been sober for three years. “It’s my source of strength.”
Rodriguez is among the 70,000 other veterans living in the city today that also rely on food pantries and soup kitchens, according to statistics from the Food Bank of NYC.
Last week, he stood alongside Councilman Erich Ulrich and numerous local elected officials as the City Council donated 1,000 pounds of food to the shelter as part of the City Council Veterans Food Drive Initiative.
“Now more than ever, veterans who have fallen on hard times need our help,” Ulrich said. “This food drive will help feed hundreds of local veterans who might otherwise go without during the holiday season.”
In addition to his efforts, 35 other council members also participated in the food drive, raising another 3,000 pounds of food for local soup kitchens and pantries that serve veterans and their families.
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito explained that the food drive is just one facet of the city’s effort in caring for homeless veterans.
“The New York City Council Veterans Food Drive ensured that the Borden Avenue Veterans Residence will be able to provide wholesome, nutritious meals to the hundreds of veterans they serve every day,” Mark-Viverito said.
Department of Homeless Services (DHS) Commissioner Gilbert Taylor said his office is currently on track with Mission Home, a federal program to end homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015.
“We’re partnering with the federal, state and city agencies to get this done,” he said. “All of this is a group effort.”
Rodriguez continues to work with the shelter towards becoming self-sufficient, but he said it is the little things along the way where he finds happiness.
“As long as you have a roof over your head, food on your table, you have clean clothes and you have a bed to sleep in, you’re good,” Rodriguez said. “My mother taught me to just be satisfied and grateful with what you do have.”