Disabled Army Veteran, Roger Gaines, loves his country, is blessed by a great upbringing, and thankful for God. These are just a few topics he might bring up while socializing at the Marian House Soup Kitchen during lunch. Roger served 11 1/2 years in the Army in various communication roles while working around the globe, from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Italy, to Ft. Hood, Texas, and finally to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he says, “it’s home as far as I’m concerned.” He loves the mountains and the people, and he is forever grateful for the support systems in place at the Marian House and the Veteran Affairs (VA) office for keeping him off the streets.
As a disabled veteran living on a fixed income, Roger has found it difficult to make ends meet and to maintain employment due to medical issues. While he receives a VA Housing Voucher, lessening the budgeting burden, he also relies on the Marian House for meals, particularly when his limited food stamp allotment has been exhausted or weather inhibits his ability to get to a store. Roger relies on a bike for transportation.
In addition to meals, Roger relies on the Marian House for social interaction. He has formed friendships with the staff and patrons and says, “to me, the Marian House is invaluable because it feeds people. They keep people’s stomachs full and the food is good. The location is perfect, too; it’s right where it needs to be.”
Several years ago, his outlook was not so secure. As a result of not understanding how the VA deducts his medical co-pays, Roger was hit with the debits all at once from his disability check, resulting in not having enough money to pay rent. He said, “If I had understood they were going to do this, I could have planned for it.” At the time, Roger’s landlord was understanding and had agreed to let him pay back the amount he owed over a few months, but then decided to stop accepting VA Vouchers altogether. Roger was evicted because he still had $153 to repay.
An eviction is one the toughest barriers to overcome, even with a VA Housing Voucher, as almost no landlord will rent to someone with an eviction. Recounting the story, Roger says, “It’s a catch-22. It took me four months to get a new place. I was getting hopeless.” He found himself at the Springs Rescue Mission, because he didn’t “plan on sleeping outside if [he] don’t have to.” He reached out to everyone he could to get housed. During this time he ate many meals at the Marian House and visited with Client Services to review his options. He also worked with the VA and finally, Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center was able to help him into an apartment complex just a block and a half from the Marian House. His new place is small, but Roger “is grateful for his space, his new AC, and kitchenette.”
Roger Gaines was homeless for four months and that is four months too long. His life was placed on hold because of a series of events beyond his control. Stably housed once again, Roger has aspirations of using his GI bill to enroll in school to study religion. More importantly, he has returned to making sure he stays healthy by keeping his blood pressure where it needs to be and getting over gout, something that he felt he could not do when he was homeless.
Veteran homelessness has been a hot topic over the past few years. In 2017, the U.S. saw a rise in homeless veterans for the first time in seven years, with 40,000 homeless veterans reported in the January 2017 national Point-in-Time survey. For someone like Roger, resources such as the Marian House and the VA have helped fill the gaps while he worked toward stability.