For veterans like Graham, civilian life is not an easy road. Here’s how he found his way home.
A veteran with more than ten years of service never deserves to live in a bus station. Yet, that is where U.S. Army veteran Graham found himself just over a year ago, right before the start of COVID.
After he completed his service in 2012, Graham had looked forward to building a good life for his family. He enrolled in college and held down jobs, including helping other veterans at the VA hospital. But, like many veterans, he faced unique setbacks.
Under the surface, Graham was struggling with PTSD and chronic pain that took a toll and eventually made it impossible to continue working. He and his wife eventually separated. Soon after, he found himself homeless.
Graham faced an uphill battle but was not ready to give up. He was determined to get his life back on track for the sake of his two children: “They never knew my struggles,” he said. “I sheltered them from that. To them, dad was handling stuff.”
He turned to the VA for help after realizing his medication was an opioid and highly addictive. The VA enrolled him in a treatment program. There, he was referred to HOPE Atlanta for help finding a place to live so he could reunite with his children and avoid life on the streets.
“Alison was my caseworker. She said, ‘Look, just tell me what you need, and we will make it happen,’” he said. Alison Poole, HOPE Atlanta’s Director of Veteran Services, secured a hotel room for Graham, and he began to search for more permanent housing.
Then came another curveball: COVID-19. “I had apartment complexes say, ‘No, we aren’t taking any more applications right now.’ Once they realized they couldn’t evict anyone, they stopped taking anyone. So, I lived in a hotel for about a year,” he said.
Meanwhile, Graham and Alison worked on securing disability assistance while looking for a permanent place for him to live. While HOPE Atlanta clients are expected to do some of the “leg work” — like house hunting, filling out applications, and keeping up with medications and appointments — caseworkers help them navigate complexities within housing and government systems, advocating on their behalf and securing resources like MARTA passes and food.
“I had to get on the MARTA and had to go around all of Dekalb county looking for a place,” he said.
All of the persistence eventually paid off. He got into a house and back on his feet, with a bit of help from HOPE Atlanta to cover the bills while he worked to rebuild his life. The biggest reward of all? He is reconnected with his children and focused on helping them succeed academically. “I’m old school about it all,” he said. “Grades come first.”
He added: “As soon as I found this place, I just figured the way I looked at it was a new beginning, time to start over.”
HOPE Atlanta offers special services for veterans and their families, who face unique challenges and are more at risk of experiencing homelessness and hunger. For more information about this program, visit our website.