Clarence served in the military for nine years when a knee injury caused him to be released from service. Depressed by the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life, and taking painkillers for his knee, he became addicted to drugs. After alienating himself from his wife and daughter, and years of bouncing from one job to the next, his life spiraled out of control. Finding solace in street drugs, he was soon living out of his car. His health was deteriorating rapidly and an undiagnosed illness was taking its toll. When his car was towed, he hit rock bottom: another veteran living on Skid Row, just one of the 50,000 homeless souls in LA County.
“When you’re out on the streets, it really beats you down. You start feeling really bad about yourself. Your self esteem is so low,” said Clarence. “Every situation is difficult. You feel stuck. You want to get a decent shower and a decent meal and go to the doctor and take care of your health. It’s no fun out there.”
He learned about Volunteers of America from a veteran he met at a park he often slept in. He built up the courage to ask for help and enrolled for treatment at our one of our alcohol and drug recovery centers.
Kicking the habit turned out to be a very difficult challenge for Clarence, as he had become addicted to painkillers over the years and unable to afford them, he became addicted to crack cocaine. After six months of sobriety he left the program. But finding work with a past like his wasn’t easy and soon he was back on the streets and off the wagon.
After several months, he was ready to commit to treatment. After his successful rehabilitation, we moved him to our transitional housing program for senior Veterans, where he also received medical care and disability benefits advocacy. “When I was at a very low point, Volunteers of America came into my life and helped me in every way. They helped stabilize my life. They didn’t turn their back on me.”
Clarence was diligent about applying for jobs and apartments. He continued to make use of our constellation of services and went through our HVRP a jobs program for Vets, soon landing a full-time job. With a steady job and regular paycheck, he moved into an apartment at Ballington Plaza, one of our permanent housing facilities.
I had a permanent address again which really gave me hope for a new beginning. And I was able to save some money” said Clarence. “I began to feel confident about my life.” With the support and encouragement of his case manager, Clarence began to repair relationships with loved ones. He reached out to his daughter Tami, a firefighter, who he had been too embarrassed to call when he didn’t have a phone number or address to give her. After several conversations over the phone, Clarence went up to visit Tami, who welcomed him back in to her life.
“I feel good about myself and my life again. Things are going well.” Clarence says, “My time at VOA helped me get back on my feet. VOALA provided me with something that is very precious – a way back home.”