6 ABC News: Hometown Hero - AHARI Founder Stephanie Booker helps homeless veterans in honor of late husband
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Philadelphia woman who once struggled with homelessness and addiction is now helping others dealing with the same plight.
For Stephanie Booker, who founded "A Home is a Right," the urge she feels to help her community comes from a place of deep empathy.
"I am a product of the environment that I serve, so I know the struggles that I went through to try and find the resources I needed to try to come back to being a productive citizen in life," said Booker.
She knows how something like a simple pair of shoes can change a life.
"Sneakers like this, they cost about $100, $120 in the store. We're giving them out for free," she said of the multiple pairs of Nike shoes she gave away during an event at Panati Playground in North Philadelphia.
Helping people in need gives her joy, especially knowing that her late husband, Richard Carter, a Vietnam veteran, found passion in helping others too.
"That was one of the worst pains I had to go through -- the loss of my husband -- but it also gave me the strength that I needed to move forward," she said.
Booker and her husband founded "A Home is A Right" foundation, or AHARI, together before he passed. They partner with organizations like Highmark Wholecare and Teamsters Local 502 to help homeless veterans.
"Our veterans need housing, that's their primary need right now," she said.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development says there are 291 veterans in Pennsylvania in emergency shelters and 433 in transitional housing.
"They have a lot of veteran housing that's scattered throughout the city, but the larger ones are in crime-infested, drug-infested areas," she said.
Booker's big plans for AHARI go to the root of her organization -- finding homeless veterans a permanent place to stay. She wants to build a community for them in University City, a safe place they can call home.
For Booker, taking care of veterans is the best way she knows how to continue the work her husband started.
"He says I'm his little soldier, so I'm going to honor my commitment," she said.