Roy Brown certainly understands how to repair things with his hands. He has been doing so for almost 50 years, including seven years in the Army.
Roy is 62. He has a strong work ethic and would often hold two jobs to make ends meet. He became homeless two years ago when work suddenly dried up.
“I was in a down slump and couldn’t pay my rent anymore,” Roy said. “So I went to a shelter for veterans, hoping for a new start.”
Roy was at Emmanuel House, which provides transitional housing and support services. He helped with the maintenance and cooking there, while seeking a path to regain his independence. In February last year, Roy met with Alexis McFadden, a case manager with Southwest Solutions’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. SSVF provides eligible veterans rental and other assistance to stabilize their housing situation and move them toward self-sufficiency.
A month after meeting with Alexis, Roy moved into his own apartment. SSVF paid the security deposit, several months’ rent, and other costs to enable the move.
“Mr. Brown’s determination to better his life was impressive,” Alexis said. “He got a job and training at the VA through its CWT [Compensated Work Therapy]. He also set goals of finding sustainable employment, securing transportation, and purchasing a home once his apartment lease ended.”
Last September, Roy bought a vacant house on the east side through the Detroit Land Bank auction for $4,800. He paid cash, using money he had saved from his VA job while SSVF assisted him with rent.
“SSVF enabled me to get back on my feet and work toward becoming a homeowner,” Roy said. “I wanted a place I could fix up with my own hands. It’s also satisfying to make the neighborhood better by bringing a house back to life.”
After completing the CWT program in March, Roy was then hired by a maintenance and cleaning service that is contracted to work in apartment and office buildings.
Roy served in the Army from 1973 to 1980. He spent most of his time overseas, in the wake of the withdrawal from Vietnam. Roy’s older brother had served in combat during the Vietnam War, and Roy followed in his brother’s footsteps into the military.
After his service, Roy lived in Benton Harbor and worked as a handyman. In 1985, he got involved in an illicit situation that he deeply regrets and was then incarcerated. Roy earned his GED in prison, since he had dropped out of high school growing up so he could work and help support younger siblings. After his release from prison, he came to Detroit.
“I’ve had many challenges and chapters in my life, but I’m in a good place now,” Roy said. “It’s important to me to be self-reliant. If I need help and it’s available, then I’ll accept it and be thankful. But I never take more than I need, and I try to give back.”