I got to doing drugs and lost it all, and that’s how I became homeless.
After 14 years of service in the military and tours in three different conflicts, Calvin settled back into civilian life in St. Louis in the early 1990s.
“I was really successful. I was married. I had property,” he recalls.
His experiences in the military left Calvin with physical pain and unaddressed mental trauma. He turned to drugs to cope. “I got to doing drugs and lost it all, and that’s how I became homeless.”
The successful life Calvin built for himself and his family slipped away due to substance use.
In 2014, Calvin no longer had a place to live, and was forced to try to make the best for himself and his two young sons who were 4 and 2 at the time. When possible, Calvin and his sons couch surfed, but at times they had to seek shelter on the streets.
It’s bad when you work and have stuff all your life and all the sudden you’re homeless. It was really hard on me. So it sent me into a tail spin.
On a snowy evening in 2014, Calvin connected with the VA St. Louis Health Care System, which helped him establish his military benefits and connected him with a case manager. The VA referred Calvin to Places for People, where he enrolled in the Hope, Health & Housing grant program. Serving veterans was one of the grant project’s focal points – approximately 1 in 4 people helped by the grant had prior military service.
At Places for People, Calvin began participating in therapy groups with other people addressing substance use issues. Individual and group therapy provided Calvin with an outlet he didn’t have before.
Through another grant – the Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration grant – Calvin started working with Places for People Occupational Therapist Greg Seymour to address high blood pressure and cholesterol concerns.
“His understanding of health and wellness, and exercise and nutrition, has improved; and his application of that to his life has improved whether it be shopping for healthier items, preparing healthier items or just trying to be more active in his daily routine,” Seymour said.
They also worked on strengthening exercises to overcome injuries Calvin suffered in Desert Storm. “When I got here, I was on a walker. I worked myself to a cane.”
In 2017, Calvin became a father again. The 57-year old’s primary goal is to buy a house in the next couple of years that will be big enough for his three sons.
“There ain’t no ‘I think I can do it.’ I know I can do it.”
His success in treatment means he visits Places for People less. He still attends groups, but requires less time with his team. Integrated Health Coach Heather Stephens said Calvin has become a mentor and source of inspiration for younger members of the therapy groups he attends. “He is really good in group, and all the guys like him and respect him.”Seeing success like Calvin’s is invigorating for Stephens. “It’s refreshing to work with someone who is easy to work with, fun to work with, and just keeps trying hard, and you can actually see the progress.”
Calvin said Places for People is “One of the only places I’ve ever been where people honestly want to help you without ‘what you’ve got for me. Give me something.’”
He sees a bright future ahead. “I really feel good now. I feel like I’m going to be a contributing factor in society. I can do some good.”
I feel like I’m going to be a contributing factor in society. I can do some good.