“I’ve been clean and serene for 31 years,” says Army Veteran Dwayne T. His three college degrees, experience as a professional musician, and working as a cook in some of the finest restaurants in Philadelphia, he believes, pales in comparison to achieving his recovery–being clean and serene.
Born and raised in self-described rough neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Dwayne’s life was on a trajectory that included gang wars, drugs, and criminal activity. He thought that was his destiny. Then divine intervention interceded. At 16, he begged his mother to join the military. At just
16 ½ he enlisted and went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where he quickly realized he had to grow up. His Army career was short-lived and at 17 ½ he tried to return to high school. They didn’t welcome him back.
He began working as a cook under some of the top chefs in restaurants in Philadelphia like Kelly’s, Fishes, King Crab Restaurant to name a few. He later became a certified medical assistant and then he dabbled in the music industry as a professional piano, keyboard, flute and 6- and 12-string guitar player.
Using the GI bill, Dwayne received associate degrees in business studies, computer networking technology and electronics. He continued to pursue a degree in Business Administration at Millersville University.
Life seemed to be on track. Dwayne had the opportunity to buy the house he was renting. He was finalizing the details when his landlord took a cash offer from another buyer. The new buyers asked him to leave and he was forced to move all his belongings to storage as he frantically looked for another apartment. “I had two weeks to clean out my house and get things in storage,” he recalls. That required making decisions on what to keep and what to toss.
Dwayne moved into the TLC program in Lancaster, PA while he searched for a permanent home. That’s where he met Lancaster County Supportive Services for Veteran Families case worker, Kim Hartman. “Kim made me feel like I am living again.” She helped Dwayne get started on this new chapter in his life.
Through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, Kim provided the security deposit and first month’s rent for Dwayne’s new apartment. She also provided a bed and essentials like pots and pans, cleaning supplies, a fan and other necessities.“It was an uplifting experience to see her caring for me. I appreciated it,” remarked Dwayne.
Today, you’ll find Dwayne working at the local Staples store and enjoying his new apartment. His life has been transformed and he encourages other Veterans who are facing eviction to reach out for help. “I was blessed when I met Kim. She helped me find my apartment and gave me a reason to be positive about my future,” he added. Like many Veterans, Dwayne had to put his pride aside to ask for help. “If you want to do something to change your life, you need to be open to help. Let them tell you how they can help you reach your goals,” he added.
If you know a Veteran who is facing eviction contact Supportive Services for Veteran Families in Lancaster, Berks or Schuylkill Countyat 610-374-4696. ext 293.