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Contact Jo Anna Wynn at the non-profit group Walkin' In My Shoes, (262) 914-6403. PO Box 311, Kenosha, WI 53141.

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Homeless Marine veterans and twin brothers Tim, left, and Scott Pietruszynski talk about their experiences living on the streets of Kenosha for the last month.

Brothers. Veterans. Homeless.
July 3, 2008
When job falls through, they find themselves on the streets of Kenosha
MATTHEW OLSON

The ties between brothers Tim, Scott and Ken Pietruszynski are strong.

All three served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Tim served in the first Gulf War, and Ken is a veteran of the Vietnam War.

And, for the last month, all three have been homeless and living on the streets of Kenosha.

But the brothers are thankful for help they have received and are hopeful for some better circumstances in the near future.

The Pietruszynski brothers came to Kenosha about a month ago believing a factory job would be available for Ken, 58, in Pleasant Prairie. Tim and Scott, 39-year-old twins, are unable to work due to injuries sustained during construction jobs.

The job was not available, and the brothers had no place to live.

It was the first time any of the brothers had lived in Kenosha. Ken came close to paying off a home in Montana about two years ago, but could not meet a final deadline.

"At my age, it's hard to find a job," Ken said. "I've had over 30 years in the work force."

The brothers also said that they were told Kenosha had four homeless shelters. That turned out to be the Interfaith Nightly Network System, which rotates a nightly homeless shelter between different locations. The distances between sites made it difficult for Tim and Scott, due to their previous injuries, to reach those sites.

"We didn't know we have to go from here and there," Ken said. "That's why we were staying out here for weeks."

The brothers have been spending their recent weeks in parks, by the lakefront and whatever shelter can be found outside. A police officer did have the brothers transported to St. Mary's Church one night to use the shelter. On other nights, the men were forced to leave city parks.

A permanent homeless shelter is being planned at 7915 Sheridan Road. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates about 154,000 veterans are homeless across the nation, about one-third of the adult homeless population.

These weeks outside have brought rough weather and rough times for the brothers.

"It got to the point where we were arguing amongst ourselves," Ken said.

Scott said he was so desperate to get clean while living outside that he tried to wash himself in a public fountain.

"I used to have a house and a boat. I used to stay in Lake Geneva. Now I can't go here, I can't go there," Scott said. "I said (to a police officer) 'What do you want me to do? Jump in the lake?' "

The brothers said that most people they have met in Kenosha have been helpful. A family in a park gave the brothers food from their cookout.

At the top of that list is Jo Anna Wynn, the director of the non-profit group Walkin' In My Shoes. Wynn's organization provides resources, such as food and sleeping bags, to homeless people.

Wynn had provided three sleeping bags to the men she knew only as "the three Marines" through the First Step Services program. On Monday, she met the brothers for the first time.

She was able to get glasses for Ken, bring bug spray to ward off the lakefront's growing insect population and brought food for the brothers a number of times in recent days.

"She's an angel," Tim said. "She has helped us out so much. She came to see us when we had nothing to eat."

Now the brothers are hoping their luck can turn around.

Ken is still a few years away from receiving a pension. Tim and Scott are receiving Social Security payments and are hoping to find shelter today when their latest payments come in. They also hope to help out fellow veterans with food on the Fourth of July. The brothers hope employment and transportation can soon follow.

Wynn said she hopes to provide them with further food and amenities to get the brothers back on their feet.

"I'm hoping that we can raise money to expand our outreach," Wynn said of her organization of three years. "Had we had the money we would have put them in a hotel. Now we're going to help them start their lives over again."

The brothers still joke with each other and run through their Marine memories, salutes and songs. And they are staying strong as they hope to overcome their current struggles.

"You have to laugh about certain things," Ken said. "And when you're a Marine, you're always a Marine. It's a brotherhood, until the day you die."

 

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Last Modified: 12/06/2011