Timely help sparks a veteran’s renewal

January 16th, 2020
Brian Tyler at Harper Hospital where he works

At 19, Brian Tyler felt stagnant and uncertain about his future. His grandparents had served in the military, and Brian thought this might be a good option for him, too. So he joined the Army.

“I took a chance and I’m glad I did because it gave me purpose and made me grow up,” said Brian, who is now 32. “Even today, my service is the gift that keeps on giving. When I needed help the most, being a veteran allowed me to get it, and that’s given me a new lease on life.”

Brian was helped by Southwest Solutions’ Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) program. SSVF provides rental assistance and support services to help veterans experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

Brian served four years in the Army as an Operating Room Specialist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The job involved helping prepare patients and the OR for surgery and providing some assistance during procedures.

“I wanted to work in the medical field since I was kid,” Brian said. “I like helping people and alleviating their hurt.”

Brian’s childhood was chaotic and tragic. His father went to prison when he was four. His mother was an addict and eventually died from her drug use. As the oldest of five children, Brian was protective of his siblings and assumed many parental responsibilities because of his mother’s addiction. The family repeatedly stayed in shelters, and unstable housing became the norm until the children went to stay with grandparents in Georgia.

Even when he returned from Georgia as a teenager to stay with his father, who had been released from prison, Brian experienced a bout of homelessness. Because of tension with his father, Brian and his brother left home and squatted in an abandoned house on the east side of Detroit.

Despite all the adversity, Brian persevered and was able to graduate from high school and then find a path forward. But even as he forged a career and a disciplined life, the instability was not completely behind him and would re-emerge when unexpected stresses became too much.

After leaving the Army, Brian worked for the VA in D.C. for a year and then returned to Detroit. He took a job at a major hospital in the city as a surgical technologist in 2015. He also had a daughter that year. In early 2018, the pent-up pressures of long work hours combined with the sudden end of a close relationship, as well as other personal issues.

“I couldn’t cope and had a psychological meltdown,” Brian said. “I quit my job, paid two months’ rent, and stayed in my apartment by myself,” Brian said.

After the rent ran out, and without a place to stay, Brian then went to the VA, which referred him to an emergency shelter and transitional housing program for veterans called Love N Kindness. At the program, Brian met Karah Adams, an SSVF housing specialist with Southwest Solutions. SSVF caseworkers visit transitional housing facilities for veterans in the city to help the veterans regain housing stability.

“Karah’s energy and encouragement sparked me to get on the ball and get my life together,” Brian said.

Karah helped Brian locate an apartment. SSVF provided the security deposit, rental payments for up to three months, household goods, and a bed. Brian moved into his new place at the beginning of last November.

At the same time, Brian started looking for a new job. Karah connected Brian with her SSVF colleague Brandon Gray, an employment specialist, who helped Brian with his resume. Because of his skills and experience, Brian was able to secure a job in short order. He is now a surgical technologist at Harper Hospital at the Detroit Medical Center. Most importantly, he is determinedly optimistic about his future.

“I like positivity,” Brian said. “I am very close to my daughter and I see her often. I want to model self-responsibility and happiness for her.”

As he settles into his new start, Brian is setting goals. He aspires to buy his own home. He is also considering getting a degree in nursing.

“Whatever I do professionally, I know it will be in medicine,” Brian said. “That’s where I belong and can make a difference.”

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