From extended-stay hotel to happy home: a veteran and her family’s hard-fought success story

Ahead of Veterans Day, we’re celebrating veterans like Crystal by strengthening our support system for others who are struggling.

Since grade school, most of us have been told that anyone can find success and prosperity here in America if they only work hard enough. We celebrate that American Dream and our freedoms during holidays like Independence Day. On Veterans Day, we pay tribute to those who have sacrificed to preserve these freedoms and ideals.

When you look a little closer, beyond the patriotic platitudes, it’s clear that some Americans have to pull much harder on their bootstraps than others. Many, facing more hurdles than hope, become trapped in a cycle of poverty or walk a financial tightrope due to rising housing costs. One group that often meets such obstacles is none other than our U.S. Veterans, who are more than 50% more likely to experience homelessness.

Crystal, a military veteran, was doing everything “right” when she returned to civilian life. She and her husband, also a veteran, were both employed and living in an apartment with their two children. Then, an unfortunate occurrence turned their lives upside down: her husband was laid off. Despite Crystal working a second job, the family lost their apartment and were forced to move into a hotel.

“We stayed in a hotel for about three months, paying for the hotel weekly,” Crystal recalled. “Some days, we didn’t even have enough money to pay for the hotel, so we had to choose between getting food for the kids or paying for the hotel. Some days, we would end up sleeping in our car. Never would I have ever thought me and my kids would have been sleeping in our car in a hotel parking lot. Never.”

As Crystal struggled to make ends meet, all while working as a medical records clerk, she fought tirelessly to secure additional resources for her family. Although she became frustrated by the amount of red tape she initially encountered and the challenge of playing phone tag with multiple agencies while holding down a day job, her persistence finally paid off. She secured an appointment with Shelby McGadney, a case manager at HOPE Atlanta (now Program Manager of Veterans Services).

“By the time I got to Shelby, I was exhausted, and she was so patient,” Crystal said. “I wasn’t just a number or just a person. She actually cared about what was going on with me and my family.”

“Our program is housing-first,” explained Shelby. “[Veterans] know that if they come to us, our main goal is to ensure that we get them in housing and get them off the street.”

The two quickly sprung into action. Shelby coordinated with the VA, unemployment office, and a housing specialist to line up resources while Crystal and her family searched for a home to rent. Within two weeks, they were moving into their new house.

“I did everything she told me to do, and right now, I’m in the same house that I moved into in February 2020,” Crystal said.

Today, they are thriving. After transitioning from “survival mode” to stability, Crystal secured a full-time job with a health insurance marketplace and was promoted to Team Lead. She even joined HOPE Atlanta’s Board of Directors.

“Without this program, I would not be where I am today,” Crystal said. “They gave me a second chance when all hope was gone, and they helped give me back control of my life.”

Veterans Day is Thursday, November 11th.
Looking for a meaningful way to celebrate?

Please help us support veterans like Crystal during Veterans Week of Service, sponsored by Montlick & Associates. We’re looking for volunteers and volunteer groups to provide move-in kits, cleaning kits, and other essentials to help veteran families transitioning from homelessness. Download the flyer for more information.

Short on time? A one-time or recurring donation to HOPE Atlanta helps us provide 1–1 support to more veterans in Metro Atlanta and across Georgia.

Our vision is to end hunger and homelessness for every Georgian.