Never Again. Since World War 2, that phrase has meant a lot to those who have served in the armed forces.
For Larry W., a soldier in the US Army in the 70s and 80s, never again has taken on new meaning. Up until last winter, Larry was one of the thousands of homeless veterans. Those two words are framed and hung up in his bedroom, where Never Again refers to his memories on the streets – and how he’ll do whatever it takes to stay housed. Knowing his work ethic, Larry will be just fine.
“I’m always on my feet. Always moving. It’s hard to get back on your feet, and you’ve got to want it. All of this year has been a blessing.”
The hardest part of life on the streets for Larry wasn’t so much the instability or danger. Instead, Larry was most hurt by the stigma and shame of his experience. Larry came from a family of service members. His father and his brother both retired in the military, and they all took great pride in their work and dedication. Larry is a worker. It’s what gives him purpose, what gives him pride.
Larry hated to take what he didn’t earn, and felt as though the cost of admission for free shelter was his sense of self-worth. For months, Larry would find small side jobs here and there, but travel was difficult without resources – and every job seemed set up to fail.
It wasn’t until Larry was referred to Heartland Alliance’s Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF) program that he found a fighting chance. Through transitional housing and case management, the SSVF team works to find stability and opportunity for those who have served our country.
“I remember all I wanted was some bus passes so I could get to work, but it was all totally different than I expected. My case manager helped with so much. She worked so hard, and it made me work even harder.”
Within just a few days, the paperwork was processed and Larry was moving into his own home. With a roof over his head, Larry changed his focus back to his sense of purpose. Larry wanted to work – and the SSVF team was ready to help him find it.
SSVF helped him write a resume and find the right fit. They worked on interview prep, found him some great interview attire, and supported Larry whenever he called. When Tyson foods gave a callback for an interview, Larry was thrilled – but more importantly, he was ready.
“You know, it feels like my service to my country is still following me today. I look at Heartland Alliance as a part of that service, they served me. We got that job together.”
Today, Larry’s house is fully furnished. His fridge is full. His apartment is set up exactly as he wants it. Larry has regained more than just his housing stability through SSVF, he’s regained his sense of pride and purpose. At Tyson, Larry’s work has been recognized by his bosses. He recently received a coin printed especially for Tyson employees who have served their country. ‘Thank you for your service’ is scrawled into the small gold trinket, and Larry keeps it in his back pocket at all times.
“The American Dream is about opportunity and community. It ain’t supposed to be easy. But through that hard work, you can find opportunity. Now I’ve got both opportunity and community, and I’m proud of it.”