Homeless veteran attains housing despite COVID crisis

May 26th, 2020
Leroy Gray Jr. outside of the apartment building where he now lives

Just before the stay-home order in Michigan started, Leroy Gray Jr. was getting ready to leave a shelter for homeless veterans and move into his own apartment. Leroy had been in the shelter for five months, and he was feeling anxious and weary. The delay in moving compounded his stress.

Leroy, 61, is physically disabled. Six years ago, his foot was crushed when he was working in a warehouse. He also has a cognitive deficit related to an accident in the military. Leroy served in the Marines from 1979 to 1983. He was part of the peacekeeping force sent to Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War. During a nighttime training exercise, Leroy fell off a cliff and suffered a head injury. Over the years, the effect of the injury has been worsening.

“I am losing my memory, and it makes me sad,” Leroy said.

The opportunity for Leroy to get his own apartment was afforded by Southwest Solutions’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. SSVF provides rental assistance and support services to help very low-income veterans experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

SSVF housing specialist Karah Adams set up the opportunity for Leroy, and Karah was determined, within the shelter-in-place rules, to help Leroy move into his own place despite the complications from the COVID-19 crisis. Karah worked with the management at the apartment building, St. Antoine’s Gardens, and arranged for him to move in on April 17.

“Karah is a blessing,” Leroy said. “She is the reason I have a home, and I will always be grateful that she went the extra mile to help me.”

SSVF paid the security deposit and three months rent for Leroy’s new apartment. Leroy has an income of about $12,000 a year from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). He has qualified for a HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) voucher. The voucher will be processed once the COVID crisis subsides, allowing him to make his rent and then take care of his other living expenses through his limited income.

SSVF also provides household goods and some furniture to help veterans settle into their new place. Because of physical distancing rules, Southwest Solutions could not deliver the items to Leroy’s apartment. So Leroy and a friend came to our Housing Resource Center (HRC) to collect them. Jamie Ebaugh, who heads the HRC, assisted Leroy. Protective protocols were observed.

“I was in tears when I got the items from Jamie,” Leroy said. “I’m not used to receiving this kind of help and generosity. I am usually the one who helps others in need. It was overwhelming.”

Leroy intends to stay in his current apartment for a good while.

“Even though I’ve only been here less than two months, it feels like home,” Leroy said. “And I feel like a normal human being again.”

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