Charting the Course: Captain Dixon’s Mission to Help Veterans Find a Home
Last Updated: 31 Jan 2024
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A Marine Corps Veteran illuminates the way forward
As Vinca Andre Dixon sees it, the path to homelessness is marked by a dozen small forks in the road. Left turns here, right turns there, all leading to a place where once you’ve arrived, you have no idea how you got there.
“The things that lead to homelessness are things you just don’t pay attention to,” Dixon says. “You overlook certain things you’re doing, or not doing. You shrug off problems. You say, ‘It’s not that serious.’”
For Dixon, a U.S. Marine Corps Captain honorably discharged in 1986, that first bend in the road was a big one – the deaths of his wife, mother-in-law, and father within eight months of each other.
“It created a hole inside of me that couldn’t be filled, no medication could medicate, no doctor had a cure,” Dixon recalls. “It was the first time I ever ran into a problem I couldn’t solve. I sank deep into depression and wandered in a fog for 20 years. I didn’t care if the sun came up, I didn’t care about anything. I became homeless.”
Dixon lived unhoused for four years. During that time he battled depression and substance abuse, and he discovered something life-changing:even though it was the loss of loved ones that spurred two decades of struggle, it was the people who were still alive and still cared about him that inspired his salvation.
“I made up my mind that I had to do better for them,” Dixon says. “I also realized I couldn’t do it on my own.”
So Dixon connected with Endeavors – the largest provider of support services for Veterans in the U.S. Endeavors enrolled Dixon in its program, finding space for him at Heroes Haven, a shared housing complex for Veterans.
With his outgoing personality, warmth, optimism, and whole-hearted commitment to change, Dixon soon became an integral part of the community.
So much so that even after Dixon secured his HUD-VASH voucher and moved out of Heroes Haven, the landlord of Heroes Haven hired Dixon as a property manager and tenant liaison, a job he holds to this day. In this role, he uses his experience of hardship and grief to help other Veterans.
“I always said that if I ever got my head just an inch above water, I was going to tell people exactly how you can better yourself,” Dixon, now four years sober, explains.
“I can tell someone the exact steps. I’ll say: ‘Look, they’ll direct you to this address, but it’s not that address, it’s actually the building behind it. Catch bus number 88 and transfer to bus number 34. Ride that for 15 minutes until you get to this Valero gas station.’ And so on.”
Having navigated the road out of homelessness, Dixon bravely returns – not to fall back into old habits, but to light the way for others on the journey, pointing out turns and offering directions.
“As someone who’s walked the streets, lived under bridges, and camped outside, I understand what they’re going through,” he says. “What really matters is to have somebody they can identify with, knowing that that person laid on the ground just like they did, and then got up off the ground and started doing better.”
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.