A Way Forward: How Homelessness Support Reshaped Veteran Christopher Perry’s Life
Last Updated: 31 Jan 2024
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An Air Force Veteran discovers the power in taking one step at a time
After years of living on the street or in a shelter Christopher Perry didn’t give much thought to what defined “home.” He certainly didn’t believe that a couch could shift how he viewed his own worth.
Then Endeavors offered to furnish his newly acquired apartment.
“They saw it of the utmost importance to get furniture in there, to make it comfortable,” he says. “It was a complete makeover. Now I have the means to not only keep myself comfortable and feel good about things, but I have a place for my son to come over…my mother…my friends. It’s a place I want to call home.”
As the largest provider of services, support, and resources for Veterans and their families, Endeavors is no stranger to lending a helping hand. But being able to accept that help has been a journey for Perry.
The decorated Air Force Veteran served eight years, with nearly two years in foreign service and several deployments to Afghanistan. But substance use – the result of mental health struggles, family conflicts, and the stress of deployment – plagued him. Perry was discharged, and from 2013 to 2020, lived unhoused. Though help came his way during this time, including from Endeavors, Perry says he isolated himself.
“My homeless experience was trying,” he recalls. “I made a habit of burning bridges and getting people upset with me. Basically, I was enabling there to be a distance between me and everyone else.”
Then one day, he says he woke up, looked around, and decided he couldn’t manage it anymore.
“The homelessness, the disease, the loneliness, the darkness, it all compounded. I was like, ‘enough with the suffering.’ There’s the pit, and under the pit there’s the spiral staircase, and under the spiral staircase, there’s an elevator that goes further down. It just kept getting darker and darker. All that accumulated in a way where I was like, ‘Well, there ain’t nowhere to go but up.’”
Perry returned to Haven for Hope, a comprehensive homeless assistance facility in San Antonio, where he had stayed off and on over the years. He enrolled in, and successfully completed, the Center for Healthcare Services Integrated Treatment Program, got sober, and became active in recovery and peer groups.
He also reached out to Endeavors again.
Endeavors helped him secure a housing voucher for an apartment. His case worker gave Perry resources to start obtaining a discharge upgrade and VA benefits.
“There was a period of time where I didn’t see myself as being worthy of even being called a Vet. (I had to focus on) making changes for the better and accepting that the camraderie and the connection and my service are important.”
Perry got a car and Endeavors covered $2,500 of vehicle repairs, a gesture that Perry describes as life-changing in a way that goes beyond a mere brake replacement.
“I was taking that car from Point A to B, but with the repairs, the performance is better. I feel safer. Now I don’t mind driving a little bit further. My quality of life is better.”
Perry also enrolled in Pay It Forward, a sober living program at Haven. He became a dorm leader and then – upon request from the program’s CEO – was hired as Dorm Manager, a full-time job with benefits.
He continues to engage in his 12-Step recovery, even facilitating groups and sponsoring five other members. In 2023, Perry celebrated three years of sobriety.
Much like his recovery program, where one day leads to the next and to the next and to the next and they all add up to something bigger, Perry sees the small acts of support from Endeavors – a couch, new brakes – as the rungs of the ladder that helped him climb out of a life he no longer saw as sustainable.
“Endeavors has been there week after week,” Perry says. “They’re there for whatever the next best move for Chris is. If I can identify that, then they’re there, they’re on board, and they’re willing to find a solution.”
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit endeavors.org.