So far this Veterans Season, HomeAgain has feature current clients in our Veteran’s Transitional Housing Program. Today, however, we will feature the story of our Director of Programs, Sean Monroe, who is a veteran of the United States Army and was once homeless.
Sean left his home, in Charlottesville, at age 17 and experienced stints of homelessness until joining the military. “I slept on park benches, and I used to go to a Red Roof Inn that had a 24-hour diner on the bottom level. I slept there too.” He also recalled couch surfing and staying with friends when he could.
Enlisting seemed like a good option to move forward in life and following training, Sean was immediately sent on a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, where he provided convoy security during the Operation Joint Endeavor in hazard zones.
Upon exited the military, Sean faced serious anger that he couldn’t understand. “Back then, they didn’t know anything much about PTSD, and because we weren’t in our own war- no one paid attention to us… but we went through so much.” He explained that because American soldiers were there as peacekeepers, they did not receive the post-traumatic care needed. “We didn’t get the benefits because they were shooting at each other and not at us directly. It was crazy; we were right there with them.”
Sean’s frustration came through as he began to get into fights and his first marriage ended. He relocated to DC where he was in the process of becoming a Metro Police Officer, but when he visited Virginia for a week to see his father, he got into trouble again and his future in law enforcement disappeared.
From there, Sean was incarcerated for a brief period of time because of his actions and anger. He decided to turn his life around upon release and attended college at Virginia Union University (VUU), where he earned a B.S. in social work. He then attended Strayer University and received his masters in public administration (M.P.A.). Since then, Sean has been in homeless services working to make a difference for a group that is often neglected.
This father of four has been named to the “ 2015 Top 40 Under 40” list by Richmond’s Style Weekly because of his dedication and contributions to the community. He explains that, on a personal level, he identifies with HomeAgain’s clients; “I was driven to give back to my community. Everyone we deal with is my peer.”
“We do the work, and I think we are extremely competent in what we do. For us, it is not about the system, it is about the clients. It’s largely about socio-economic status, and it’s our mission to house people.”
Sean remains active locally serving as a board member for Homeward and assisting in veteran program services in Petersburg, all while coaching football at the Hotchkiss Community Center. He enjoys boxing, playing basketball, and above all- being a father.
His advice for overcoming life’s obstacles is to “be honest with yourself and ask what you are really trying to achieve in life. Don’t be dependent on the system; use the resources and move forward.”