The idea of transitional homes for homeless veterans began inside Maggie Heath’s thoughts a long time ago.
Today, she ambles across the Lion’s Park in Concho, Arizona at a fundraiser for the transitional housing she envisioned and created for the men and women who have disappeared to corners unknown and now aptly named the Walking Down Ranch, Inc. Her passion for the veterans in need and her unfinished business is mirrored in the cars around the park.
She keeps walking with her face into the sun squinting and stopping long enough to thank everyone for coming. Vendors are trying to make a few dollars and help each other. Veterans are also selling used tools as they sit on cushion worn chairs. They probably own them…the chairs. Bringing along their seats as they rise above the history of loss and as Maggie sees it their lives made difficult with nowhere to go; no home equals no safety and well, a difficult life. Maggie is pushing the idea to help those she honors as soldiers who went abroad to contribute to the safety of this America. She’s been hushed and challenged and still she keeps walking.
The tents of vendors dot the grass booths with chimes and shirts and determined faces setting up as thoughts of profits entertain the November 8th afternoon. Concho, the hiccup between Show Low and St. John’s in Arizona, where the Apache and Navajo Americans lived and still do. So the America changes and the constant is the line between those who have a place to live and those who don’t. It gets cold in the White Mountains in the winter and America has plenty of money. Maggie is going to make sure that some of that cash goes to the un-tented.
Smiles with dark teeth flash across the field. Alfred Reed and Chuck Hoyt keep their backs to the sun. “It’s harder on the younger vets,” Chuck says. “We had a better time when we were coming up,” he says referring to the state of the economy and home stability.
“It’s a good idea to help the vets,” he continues. The Walking Down Ranch could also mean a job for him as an RN. He plans on talking to Maggie about that. He calls Concho a, “Hillbilly vortex,” and laughs. “This is the second poorest county in America. The county is split and most of it goes to the American Indians,“ he continues.
Veteran Chuck Hoyt stands next to one of two of his businesses: Quarterback challenge and fast pitch, a travelling game to throw a ball at a target. His other one is a mobile photo studio (mobilestudio.com). Neither one of these veterans needs a home right now.
Don Borg sits at a table with an oxygen tube in his nose. He isn’t a veteran but gives back to those who gave up their lives and limbs for his life to be better. Through Wreaths Across America, he makes sure that a wreath is placed on a grave where a veteran is buried. “On December 13th we will have National Remembrance Ceremony at the San Rafael Catholic Church Cemetery and St. John’s Catholic Cemetery can you come to it?” he says.
Don has a beautiful home on the Concho Golf Course in Concho that he is trying to sell so he can move to Phoenix so his health can get better. He has everything that Maggie wants her dream ranch for the veterans to have.
Soon, the 36.5 acres that were donated by a veteran will be a shoveled into mounds with tractors and architects will help with many walking on the dirt where veterans who need, “A helping hand up not a hand out.” In March 2015, dirt will be turned into a turf of hope for some of the homeless who are here today.
Walking Down Ranch, Inc., Transitional Veteran Housing; walkingdownranchinc.org 520-668-4142