Metro-East News

Troy residents raise money on Facebook to send homeless veteran to friend in New York

A group of Troy residents were able to raise more than $500 to get a homeless veteran off the streets and on a bus to New York — all within eight hours through a Facebook post.

Michelle Noyes saw what she thought was a large bag of trash Wednesday as she and her family were driving in Troy. Noyes thought it was odd, and realized it may be a sleeping bag. She told her husband to go through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive through and get a hot chocolate, and they turned back around.

Sure enough, the lump on the ground was a person — a Marine veteran named William Bozman — huddled in a sleeping bag to avoid the frigid, record-breaking cold.

“It made me feel awful, thinking about someone out in the cold like that,” Noyes said. “His face was so, so red from the cold ... when he took his head out of the sleeping bag, I could see how cold and miserable he was.”

She posted about Bozman in the “Out and About in Troy, Illinois” Facebook group to see if anyone had connections to get him inside. After that, it took off.

Troy residents brought him food, water, blankets, warm clothes and boots throughout the day, and were able to raise enough money to buy him a bus ticket to New York, where he had a friend he could stay with. Warm at last, he boarded the bus Wednesday night with a backpack full of supplies and a pocketful of cash from helpful Troy residents.

No one knew Bozman, or knew anything about him, said Johanna Hartlein, who volunteers with Making a Difference in State Park Place. They just knew he was cold and needed help.

“It was really beautiful,” Hartlein said. “Not one person said, ‘Is he black or white?’ or ‘He should get a job’ or ‘He’s probably on drugs.’ No one asked one question of judgment; people just came together to help a stranger who needed it.”

Wednesday morning, Bozman saw nothing but cold in front of him, he told Hartlein “He said he didn’t think he’d make it more than a few weeks.”

Bozman had been hitchhiking to New York from California, and had been dropped off in Pontoon Beach, said Tony Hilker, founder of Making a Difference. He walked to Troy from there, and stopped at a truck stop, trying to hitch a ride. He couldn’t find anyone, so he stayed the night outside in his sleeping bag.

“In the span of a few hours, he went from freezing and hungry to full and happy and with a bus ticket and a few hundred bucks in his pocket,” Hilker said. “To see the community of Troy come together like that, that was really cool to see.”

Approximately 11 percent of the homeless population are veterans, and as many as 40,000 homeless veterans could be out on the streets on any given night, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

Making a Difference is a nonprofit organization based out of State Park Place that helps to provide homeless people with everyday essentials, like toiletries, blankets, clothes and snacks. It has seven drop-off locations that accept donations in the metro-east.