Navy Veteran Charts a New Course

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Robert Nelson admits he was a tough kid. The tenth child of eleven siblings, Robert’s parents served as role models of perseverance and determination.  His mother cleaned houses and his father worked in the coal mines of northern Pennsylvania and the Steam Heat Plant in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.

In his junior year of high school, Robert quit school. Thanks to John Powers, a determined and influential teacher, Robert returned to school and graduated from Pottsville Area High School.  After graduation, he joined the Navy as a boatman’s mate.  His Navy career was short lived after he was diagnosed with a heart murmur and honorably discharged.

Robert returned home to his native Pottsville, Pennsylvania and worked for Schuylkill County Weatherization Program.  During his career, he was diagnosed with a bone condition called avascular necrosis and had five hip replacement surgeries. Unfortunately, his employer was no longer able to hold his job open as he recovered from his last hip replacement surgery and extensive rehabilitation.

For 13 years, Robert, a Navy veteran, lived in the same apartment in Pottsville. He had an absentee landlord who let the building deteriorate and it fall apart over the years.  “I had black mold in the bathroom.  The steam would make it worse and I couldn’t breathe,” said Robert. “I knew I had to get out of there.”

Navy Veteran Asks for Help

With no place to turn, Robert contacted the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program and found an advocate in his case worker, Victoria Spitler.  “She helped me a lot. She helped me find a new apartment and checked in on me all the time,” noted Robert. He and his finance, Kimberly, an Army veteran, were thankful for the services they received including food. He and his fiancé Kim appreciate the on-going support of their caseworker, Victoria Spitler. “Victoria is the best.  She looks after us to be sure we are safe.”

Today, Robert is an advocate for Supportive Services for Veteran Families and recommends them to any veteran who is facing eviction or homeless. Opportunity House in Reading, Pennsylvania administers the SSVF grant for Schuylkill, Berks, and Lancaster Counties.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families provides intensive case management services to eliminate homelessness by providing rental assistance, utilities assistance and healthcare.


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