A once-homeless veteran is getting back on his feet after receiving help from a Fort Worth police officer.
Officer Joe Spragins noticed Toney Dervan and his service dog while he was out on service calls around west Fort Worth last winter.
The first time Spragins encountered Dervan, the man was “sleeping on the side of a Little Caesar’s building,” explained Spragins.
Spragins began cultivating a relationship with Dervan, as he saw him frequently.
“He was always super nice and cooperative,” recalled the officer. He began asking Dervan more questions, but “he would never offer up anything about his past or anything.”
The officer then discovered that Dervan was a war veteran who had served right after 9/11. Dervan fell on hard times and ended up on the streets.
“I did three tours to Iraq, one to Afghanistan. Went in as a fuel supply specialist,” Dervan.
Spragins was motivated to help Dervan return to normal life and a home.
“When someone like Toney comes along, I’m going to do everything in my power to make it happen,” he said.
With help from Operation Texas Strong, a group dedicated to getting homeless veterans off the street by providing RVs, Spragins got Dervan his own RV and a spot at an RV park in Decatur.
“I just told him, ‘Yep, schedule it. I’ll raise the money; I’ll get it going,'” said Spragins.
Dervan now has a 1982 Winnebego camper to call home.
“It’s been a lifesaver, just him going back and forth and coordinating. He’s gone way out of his way,” said Dervan. “I’m very grateful. I can’t put it into words how grateful I really am.”
Dervan plans to support other struggling veterans. He said he dreams of creating an RV park for veterans so that they have somewhere to go if they are unable to get a home or apartment.
Spragins shared that other people in the community have come forward to help Dervan by generously donating small items, clothes, and even money.
Over 1,000 individuals (1,234) in Tarrant County were recorded as homeless during a count for the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition’s 2021 “State of the Homeless Report.” Of these, 98, or about 8%, were veterans.
A similar analysis released by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) in June 2022 found 4,410 experiencing homelessness in Dallas and Collin counties. Veterans made up 7.8%, or 302 of these individuals.
The MDHA count, conducted in February 2022, revealed that approximately 1 in 13 persons experiencing homelessness in the two counties were veterans. Of those, 26% were “chronically homeless” (or vagrant), and of these, 56% were unsheltered.
According to the MDHA, 91% of the homeless and vagrant people in this area were located in Dallas County, up from 90% the previous year.