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Pay It Forward: Phoenix woman helps get veteran off the streets

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

In south Phoenix, underneath the Seventh Street Salt River bridge are the signs of a transient living.

"He was into drugs at the time I met him, really, really bad," said Belen Ventura.

Ventura is talking about Ryan Zimmerle, an Army veteran who fell through the cracks.

"In and out of jail, in and out of jail," she said.

But Ventura saw hope in Zimmerle and helped him get off the streets.

"He sleeps really good here," Ventura said as she pointed to a bed inside her guesthouse.

Ventura also takes Zimmerle to his appointments at the VA hospital.

"I'd probably be dead without her," said Zimmerle.

"What an angel," said Bob Kish, who works at the VA hospital in central Phoenix.
 
Kish was surprised to hear this story about a stranger who helped a veteran in need.

"There's a lot of veterans out there that are on the streets, and if there were just more people like Belen out there that would just take a moment to talk to them, to take care of them, to do what they can," said Kish.

So Kish nominated Ventura for CBS 5's Pay It Forward program.

He helped us set up the surprise at the hospital by telling Ventura that Zimmerle had an appointment.

"He doesn't have an appointment. We're here today because your story touched me so much, I wrote a letter to CBS 5," Kish said before presenting Ventura with the $500 reward.

Ventura's first husband, Joseph, was a World War II veteran.

Maybe that's why she helped Zimmerle.

Or maybe she saw a chance to reach out a hand and touch a heart.

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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