Richard’s tumultuous childhood led him on a challenging path, but his decision to join the US Army brought structure and hope. However, after facing personal tragedies and periods of homelessness, he found support through Opportunity House and the Veterans Administration’s homeless outreach program.
A Turbulent Childhood
Chaos was a staple in the household where Richard grew up. From an early age, he remembers being called a bad kid. From taking too many baby aspirin, to starting a fire at his home and significantly injuring a relative, Richard knew he wasn’t an ordinary kid.
The oldest of four siblings, Richard lived on a farm with his parents. His out-of-control behavior was a result of his mother being overwhelmed as the children’s primary caretaker. His Dad worked on the farm where they lived, and he spent the rest of his time at the local bar.
Growing up was not easy for Richard. He was kicked out of three schools.
He joined the US Army to get structure in his life. He completed his GED (General Education Diploma) in the Army followed by weapons training. “It was the best thing I could have done. I loved it,” noted Richard. He met his wife, Susan, who was also in the Army. Together, they had two children. Then he left his 6-year military career.
Life’s Struggles and Loss
After moving to his wife’s hometown in Florida, life seemed promising. He worked in construction building commercial and residential buildings, and she worked odd jobs. “Life was good,” noted Richard.
Years later, Susan was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. When she died, Richard became a single parent to his children. “I was working all the time and my kids got into trouble,” he said.
Eventually he met a new partner who helped him raise his children. But their decades-long relationship ended when he realized it was toxic for both of them. He left her and returned to Pennsylvania.
Coming to Pennsylvania came with new problems. He experienced periods of homelessness. “I could usually pull myself out of the situation,” he noted. But this time things spiraled out of his control.
When COVID hit, he was living at the Coatesville VA waiting to get housing. He left the facility and chose to live in the woods. A while later he returned to the Coatesville VA only to flee again when COVID surged. He was living in a local park in his truck with no heat. “I had a candle burning inside my truck for heat,” he added. The heat of the candle cracked his windshield, and he was freezing. He didn’t think he would survive the night. He called 911 for help. When the police arrived, they discovered his outstanding warrant. He spent 40 days in jail and then returned to the Coatesville VA. There he agreed to go to rehab to address his drinking habit.
Lifeline at Opportunity House
After leaving rehab, he was living in hotels, living with friends, and living outdoors. This unstable lifestyle landed him in the hospital. After a stint in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) he eventually improved. Richard had nowhere to go. He came to Opportunity House.
“Opportunity House has done a good job of helping me get what I need including providing transportation to medical and legal appointments,” he added.
At Opportunity House, Richard receives support for veterans services through the Veterans Administration homeless outreach program. “I’m working on getting into stable housing,” notes Richard. His goal is to find housing in the area to begin the next chapter of his life.
Ways to get involved at Opportunity House
- Financial Support – donate HERE
- Volunteer – get information on serving dinner, joining a committee and other volunteer opportunities HERE
- Attend one of our events – attending an Opportunity Event allows you to learn more about Opportunity House and show your support all while having a great time.
- Donate unused items – donating to the OppShop not only keeps items from going to landfills, it also provides jobs for our clients, raises money to support the shelter and offers low cost essentials for those who need them.
- Come take a tour. To really understand the impact your support can make, call the shelter at 610-374-4696 and schedule a tour.
Opportunity House is a non-profit organization in Reading, PA, that offers those experiencing homelessness a safe place to live while they rebuild their lives. Our Success Stories share inspiring stories of our client’s journey from homelessness to finding stability, safety, and security after leaving the emergency shelter.