JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A former Army cook who fell on hard times, Debbie Bowman has been living at the Allied Veterans Center, a shelter for homeless veterans, since August.
She received career counseling and took online courses, and is applying for a job as a 911 operator. But before Bowman can get back on her feet, the shelter might be forced to close its doors. The center was founded and almost entirely funded by the Allied Veterans of the World, the charity at the center of an illegal gambling investigation that’s resulted in some 50 arrests and the resignation of Florida’s lieutenant governor.
Authorities said the charity was a ruse that raked in $300 million from gambling at its 49 parlors across Florida over the last five years. Investigators said only about 2 percent of the money — or nearly $6 million — actually went to charities.
The Allied Veterans Center, which is independently operated despite its similar name, appeared to benefit the most.
“We still need a place to go and we still need a place to stay,” said Bowman, 43, who served 12 years in the Army on active duty in Germany and later in the National Guard. “Don’t throw us out just because of people making bad choices. We still need this place to be here.”