Add To Favorites

Season to Share: West Palm Beach veteran missing nearly all his teeth struggles to recover confidence

Palm Beach Post - 12/1/2021

WEST PALM BEACH — After 14 years of experiencing homelessness and having teeth pulled due to toothaches and cavities, Reginald Ware was left with just five teeth, all on the bottom of his mouth.

Although he once used dentures, he couldn't afford to fix them when they broke four years ago.

The 56-year-old U.S. Army veteran said job interviewers have turned him down and people have stared in the grocery store because of his teeth.

"It's all the rejection that really hurts," Ware said. "You look like a monster."

2021 Season to Share: Meet your neighbors in need

'I want to stay right here': Alone in an aging home, a retiree with no legs hopes for a safer, more mobile life

Mother of four: Young mom, used to giving, now in need after lupus hurts career, finances

Ware was born in Belle Glade and is one of eight children.

Shortly after he turned 18 years old, he enlisted in the Army, following in his older brother's footsteps. He was stationed at bases in Alaska, Hawaii and Texas between 1983 and 1995.

After a stint as a civilian cross-country truck driver, Ware moved back to West Palm Beach, where he realized he couldn't afford rent.

When Ware became homeless, he wasn't alone among veterans.

People who have served in the military make up about 6% of the population of the United States but 8% of the country's unhoused population, according to 2020 numbers published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and reported by The Military Times.

More than 90% of homeless veterans were men, the HUD survey showed. Black veterans made up one-third of all veterans dealing with unstable housing although they make up just 12% of all veterans, The Military Times reported.

Things got more difficult for Ware when his teeth started to hurt.

In between finding shelters to stay in overnight and meals to get by, Ware dealt with painful toothaches and shifting teeth that made eating difficult. He started losing teeth at age 45.

For Ware, it seemed that removing teeth opened up a new set of problems, in how he saw himself, and how he felt he was perceived.

"People don't want a big Black guy with no teeth working for them," he said. "It's a handicap. It's the first thing people see about me."

In 2016, Ware found an apartment covered by Section 8 housing vouchers in West Palm Beach. His sister, who lives nearby, takes him grocery shopping every other week. He's limited to eating soft foods: Rice and beans are a staple, and he has to make sure the chicken he eats is super tender so it doesn't hurt his mouth.

As he looks around his apartment, Ware said he feels grateful and safer now, but can't shake feeling disappointed.

"I need a better outlook for my life. I need to do something more fulfilling," he said. "I've become such a homebody because I don't want to go out. I want to get out and live."

If Ware can get new dental implants or dentures, he said he believes he can get a new job in trucking. He wants to work many more years before he retires.

"I'm ready to get back out there. I'm a veteran so I can get top priority for jobs if I get my teeth fixed and can look more professional," he said.

As he reads about supply chain issues and bottlenecks in product transportation around the country, Ware said he thinks about how he can help if he's behind the wheel. He's kept his driver's license active even through the years when he lost his car and slept on friends' couches.

"I served my country and I want to serve again," he said. "My life isn't over yet."


Following 14 years of homelessness, Reginald Ware is in need of $2,600 worth of tooth extractions, $200 of dental work, and fitting for permanent dentures, which cost $5,000. The Army veteran hopes receiving new dentures will help him get a job in cross-country trucking.

Nominating agency: 211 Helpline Palm Beach/ Treasure Coast


©2021 Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.