During April 2020, as the first wave of the pandemic hit, Corrin Mack was stuck. Bad. The Army veteran had deployed to Afghanistan and Kandahar Province. She’d earned a Bronze Star Medal and been promoted to sergeant on the battlefield. She was smart and resourceful and had fierce love for her 3-year-old son, Cyrus. But none of these things shielded her and Cyrus from a physically abusive partner. “I knew I needed to leave,” she says. “Not just for me, but for my son.” On limited resources, the farthest she could get was a local Motel 6. On her monthly income, the disabled vet could not find a rental she could afford, especially in a pandemic. One day, at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, Mack saw a flyer taped to the window. The kind with tabs and a number to call. She called it. Our Veteran Services case manager answered. Mack’s life began to change. “When I pulled that tab, it was like the skies opened up and the harps started playing,” says Mack. She got connected to the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program.
It is a federal program, that combines rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). “We went through the paperwork at the motel,” Mack says. By mid-July, her HUD-VASH voucher had been approved. She was able to rent a roomy, beautiful house that would take Sadie, her service dog. “Sadie was a rescue at 15 months old and had suffered some trauma and PTSD herself,” says Mack. “She is my service dog, but she’s also my bodyguard and best friend.”
Mack also has her 18-year-old daughter Coda with her. When she joined the Army, she explains, her daughter was five years old. Because of her Army duties, primary custody of her daughter was given to dad, so she’d only had her daughter on weekends. “Now I’m in a position where I can have her here and help nurture her and point her in the right direction as she becomes an adult,” says Mack.
Her daughter begins college at Millersville University this winter. It sounds like a fairy tale. But before she got the happy ending, Mack faced difficult emotional work. Mack admits it’s often not easy for vets to accept a hand up. “Having to ask for help—knowing that I was at the point where I couldn’t do it on my own and needed outside resources—was probably one of the most helpless, hopeless points of my life,” she says. “It wasn’t easy to answer some of the questions I was asked,” including those about her past substance abuse and sexual trauma, which occurred during her military service. “But having to be transparent established a trusting relationship between my case manager and I,” she continues. “Trust is something veterans struggle with once they get out of the military. So although that was the most difficult part of this process, it was also the most beneficial. Coming to terms with your demons makes the difference in what your future will be.”
Shortly after Mack and Cyrus moved into their house, Victoria, their case manager, received a card from Mack, thanking her for all she had done to help. But we’re only giving back what we received from a veteran who served her country.
Thank you, Sgt. Mack.
Opportunity House welcomes veterans in Berks County who are in immediate need of shelter.
Effective 10/1/22 Opportunity House no longer manages the Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant. For assistance, please call Catholic Charities at (610) 435-1541.