BOZEMAN — If you spend lots of time in downtown Bozeman you might know Jackson, a Vietnam veteran who was practically living Soroptimist Park, right under a tree.
Well, his life took a major turn less than a month ago on Christmas Eve when he was told he would not have to experience another day of homelessness again.
“I kind of put my arm around him, I said 'your day has changed, your life changed forever. You’re not going to be cold anymore'," said Bozeman Police Officer Marek Ziegler.
Ziegler’s work has him out in the community establishing relationships with people like Jackson, hoping to connect them with resources.
“He came to our attention quite frequently, a few times a week. Not only by just doing outreach, but also concerned citizens calling in concerned about his welfare,” said Ziegler.
Enter Crista Ziegler -- Marek’s wife who works for Volunteers of America Northern Rockies. She asked Marek to find out if Jackson was a veteran.
“Jackson not only was a Vietnam vet but he was also eligible for all of our services. And so with that documentation, I was able to start the paperwork to get him into emergency housing,” said Christa Ziegler.
So on Christmas Eve, Christa and Marek walked from the police station to Soroptimist Park to see Jackson, and find out if he would accept what the program had to offer.
“It felt like my heart was in my throat because all I wanted was for him to say yes, because I know once he chooses that, the rest of his life has changed,” said Christa Ziegler.
Christa and Marek helped Jackson pack up his belongings and drive him to a hotel, which is where he’ll stay until the Volunteers of America Northern Rockies Office finds him a place to live in Bozeman.
“We got him settled in and all his stuff hauled in and Christa and their program said 'we’re gonna go get you some food now'," said Marek.
Christa and Marek say Jackson is now part of the family and they’re excited for what the future holds him.
“It was his choice, so when he said yes, it just [was] like emotion came over me because I was thinking 'man, his life is going to be changed from this moment',” said Christa.