Helping a homeless veteran rebuild his life

January 17th, 2019
Damon Gamble at the vocational training program he is taking

After eight years in the Army, Damon Gamble felt homesick. He missed his family and friends. He missed his hometown of Detroit. And his mind was reeling from the stress of war zones.

Damon specialized in small arms and chemical equipment repair. He spent much of his service in Iraq and Kuwait.

“It was a culture shock being there, and a shock in other ways, too,” Damon said. “The military bases would get hit by enemy mortar fire, especially when we were near Mosul. We lived in anxiety all the time. Soldiers I knew were injured and killed.”

Damon enlisted when he was 20. He is now 32.

“I joined because I couldn’t find a job to make a livable wage,” Damon said. “I thought I’d make the Army my career, but it didn’t work out that way. When I came home, I thought I’d get a good job easily because I’m a veteran and I learned skills in the service. But the skills didn’t translate to civilian life, and I couldn’t get work again. I felt betrayed and very upset.”

Back in Detroit, Damon invested his energy and savings to rehab a vacant house acquired by someone he knew. Damon planned to live there, too. But the plan fell apart. Damon was now broke and without a place to stay.

“Since I was homeless, I had to go to a shelter and was there for about half a year,” Damon said. “Then I lived out of my car for another six weeks.”

Damon went to the VA for help. He was able to secure certain disability benefits to provide a little income. To help with his housing needs, he was referred to Southwest Solutions. He enrolled in our Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. SSVF provides housing assistance, case management and support services to low-income veterans who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. The goal is help veterans attain self-sufficiency and reintegrate into the community.

In the program, Damon worked with Karah Adams, who is a housing specialist, and Brandon Gray, an employment specialist. Karah helped Damon find a decent and affordable place to live, with SSVF providing the security deposit, first three months of rent, and some household items and furniture. Brandon connected Damon with a well-regarded vocational training program.

“Karah and Brandon deserve some kind of medal for all they’ve done for me,” Damon said.

Damon is now in his second week at Emerging Industries Training Institute (EITI) on the east side. He is training in construction. It is a 16-week program, and he intends to get a job in asbestos removal upon graduation. There is a good demand for this occupation, and it pays a livable wage.

“I’m desperate for work and that’s what is driving me right now,” Damon said. “Eventually, after I’ve worked for a while and have saved some money, I want to have my own cleaning business. I want to be my own boss and control my destiny.”

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