A lot can happen in ten years. For West, a former HomeAgain client and marine, the past ten years have been truly transformative. In 2007, West exited HomeAgain’s transitional program for veterans and is now a proud homeowner.
“I used to live here,” he said as he entered HomeAgain’s veteran shelter. “I was actually the house president for a while.”
After returning home from Kuwait, West felt constantly hostile and turned to drugs. He talked about having steady jobs and a place to stay until he spent all of his money on his addiction. “I lost everything and had to come to terms with my situation.”
“I slept in stairwells down on Grace Street and in parks,” he went on.
After being referred to the VA hospital, he was placed at HomeAgain’s shelter on the same campus as the medical center. “At first I wasn’t going to do it, but it’s one of the best things I ever did,” he said. West began participating in a work program, through the Veteran’s Administration, as a GS5 safety tech. Today, he is a GS11 Life Safety Specialist for the entire hospital, where he enforces the rules and regulations of the National Fire Protection Association.
After spending two years at the transitional shelter, West was able to get a place of his own. He credits HomeAgain’s program for helping build his credit and for teaching him budgeting skills. He also spoke very highly of HomeAgain’s substance abuse accountability program for providing him with the tools to stay clean. He explained, “This program was outstanding for me. It gave me the extra structure I needed.”
“I would recommend HomeAgain to anybody in need. I’d tell them in a heartbeat to come here.”
West spoke about the positive habits he developed during his time as a client and explained that he appreciated being in the shelter and away from the interruptions of negative, external distractions. Now, he owns a home and just celebrated his first wedding anniversary with his wife, who he began dating while he was still living in the shelter.
“I’m really, really grateful and blessed to have been able to come here,” he said grinning.
Despite his success, West recognizes that homelessness still is a real issue in the Richmond community. “Right now, while we’ve been talking, someone just became homeless,” he said.
“You can overcome being homeless, but you have to want it and accept help. People who achieve things in life didn’t get that by sleeping on benches refusing to work or ask for help. If you’re willing to do it, HomeAgain is a good place to come.”
West is excited to celebrate a decade living drug-free and on his own. In his spare time, he enjoys art, fishing in the Chesapeake with his father, and photography. He also is working to complete the final goal in his 10-year-plan, which he created upon exiting our shelter. Soon, he hopes to become board certified in his field of work- so he can check that off of the list.
“I’ve worked too hard to get where I am to fall back into any old habits. It makes me feel good to tell my story and to keep going forward.”