‘You don’t choose to be homeless, but it could happen’: how a veteran and his family reclaimed their livelihoods

There is an unfortunate misconception that homelessness is a personal failing, perhaps the result of laziness or other shortcomings. But most people experiencing homelessness have fallen on hard times due to circumstances beyond their control.

HOPE Atlanta caseworker Antoinette Fields hears these stories constantly. “Life happens to us,” she said. “If you lose a job, you have an illness, or for some reason you have to vacate your house, you can become homeless. Or, you could fall back on your rent.”

This was the unfortunate case for Jason, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, his wife Liz, and their son. The family had moved to Atlanta to care for Jason’s ailing mother. When she and his grandmother died within months of each other, a family member sold the house they had been sharing. The family became homeless virtually overnight — something they never expected to experience.

“It’s so hard being on the street. It is really, really hard,” said Jason. “I never thought it could ever happen. You don’t choose to be homeless. But it could happen.”

From there, things continued to get worse. Their son was taken into foster care. Without a phone number or the proper documentation, Jason was unable to access VA benefits. Although they wanted to work, the couple struggled to find employment without a permanent address or identification.

Fortunately, Jason and Liz contacted HOPE Atlanta. Their caseworker, Antoinette, helped them secure housing while supporting their goal of self-sufficiency.

“With Jason and Liz, employment was something that they needed. Housing and preventive services were things that they needed,” said Antoinette.

With a roof over their heads and rental assistance from HOPE Atlanta, they were able to turn their attention to finding jobs. In a serendipitous twist, Jason found out about a job opportunity at the Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta while they were picking out furniture for their new home. He began working there part-time and secured a full-time position soon after.

Liz took a job as a communications specialist at HOPE Atlanta. “I really like what I do,” she said.

“We always wanted to help people. But you can’t really do that unless you can help yourself first,” said Jason.

Best of all: Jason and Liz were reunited with their son.

“Now they are able to take care of themselves. They’ve been able to purchase a car. They’re able to pay their bills and do things together as a family,” said Antoinette.

HOPE Atlanta offers specialized services for veterans and their families, who tend to experience homelessness at higher than average rates. Learn more about the resources we provide for veterans and their families.

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