How two programs helped a veteran with housing and employment

February 21st, 2022
Lydia Goddard with Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and Claudia Stephens with Southwest Economic Solutions (right)

Dean Matthew* is someone who lives his life on his own terms. He is a self-taught individual from the “School of Hard Knocks,” as he phrases it. When difficult situations emerge, Dean’s choices can be unconventional, but he is undoubtedly persistent.

Last fall, after Dean’s basement apartment flooded and his landlord was uncooperative, Dean was without a place to stay. He decided on a temporary solution.

“I got a tent and I lived in a wooded area in Westland for a month and a half,” said Dean, 46. “I’ve lived in a tent before and knew I could do it again as I figured out my next step.”

Dean reconnected with Southwest Solutions’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. SSVF provides rental assistance and support services to help low-income veterans experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. Dean was in the Army in 2008 and left on a medical discharge after suffering an injury.

Dean first received assistance from SSVF in late 2020 when he was released from prison after an appeals court ruled that his original conviction and sentencing were improper. His offense stemmed from trying to get authorities to help a friend who was in trouble, though he went about it the wrong way. After seven years of incarceration, Dean went to a halfway house. SSVF then helped him obtain an apartment, which he eventually lost because of the flooding.

As the weather began to turn colder, Dean knew he could not remain in the tent for too long. He worked with SSVF caseworker Lydia Goddard. SSVF provided funds for Dean to stay in a hotel until an affordable and appropriate apartment could be located. Although it took longer than expected, Dean found a place and moved in recently. SSVF is providing household items, some furniture and other assistance to help with the transition.

“Dean is highly motivated to move his life forward,” Lydia said.

When she began working with Dean, Lydia also referred him to our Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP), which helps homeless vets find meaningful employment. HVRP’s Claudia Stephens helped Dean with his resume and the program provided job leads, bus passes, and a gift card to purchase work clothes. HVRP is also helping Dean to get his driver’s license reinstated.

“After I pass the road test, I’m going to purchase a good used car,” Dean said. “The bus ride to and from where I work now takes about an hour.”

Dean started working at a military surplus store just after the new year. He is a self-described “military nerd,” and this knowledge comes in handy in his sales position.

“I enjoy the work, am good at it, and would like to someday start a small business of my own in the same field,” Dean said.

Dean’s future is also auspicious in another respect. He is engaged to be married.

“We’re very happy and I feel that I’m finally home,” Dean said.



*The name Dean Matthew is an alias.

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