Finding Home Again: A Veteran’s Story of Overcoming Homelessness
Last Updated: 31 Jan 2024
COMMUNITY SERVICESecho $minutes. " Minute Read"?>
An Army Veteran and single father finds the grace in asking for help
An adventurer at heart, Lee Pennell has visited almost every country in Europe. During his service as a Hawk fire control crewman in the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1986, Pennell was stationed in Germany, using that time to explore the continent end to end.
But life changed – grew smaller and more somber – after he finished his military service and returned to the states.
Settling in California, Pennell had two sons – children he adored and would do anything for. In 2004, when the boys were five and eight, their mother’s battle with drug addiction became too much. Pennell and she separated, and he took the boys.
“My sons and I were living in a one-bedroom apartment,” he recalls. “We were having financial issues and couldn’t pay the bills. We lost our home.”
Pennell found himself on the streets, no roof over his head and two young children to look after. The family of three lived near a park, and Pennell was desperate to get them into a shelter. But no place had rooms for a single father with children.
“The shelters had a tough time with us because they didn’t have facilities for single dads,” he says. “I kept trying, though, kept asking. Eventually, a shelter converted an old classroom into a room where we could stay.”
Through the challenges, Pennell worked to stay positive for his boys. He got them to school every day, helped with their homework, fed them. He worked with a therapist to learn how to talk about their mother’s addiction with the kids. He joined AA. He went back to college. And his oldest child – an adult daughter who’d been living in Germany – reunited with him.
In fact, she was the reason Pennell moved to San Antonio in May 2022, so he could live with her and her husband. Because her husband had recently gotten orders for Fort Hood, Pennell knew his housing situation was temporary. The looming question: What next?
That was when he was introduced to Endeavors from a friend in his AA group.
With just 10 days to find a new home, Endeavors – a San Antonio-based nonprofit offering services and support to Veterans and their families – got him into an apartment in less than a week.
Endeavors also assisted in getting Pennell’s car fixed so he could attend his VA appointments and AA meetings.
And eventually, Endeavors was able to transfer him into the Shallow Subsidy Program, where an increase in VA disability afforded Pennell the chance to purchase a new car and move into a bigger apartment. Now he has the space to welcome his grandkids to his home; they visit every weekend.
Joining the military at 18, living in Germany, traveling to foreign lands, raising children, overcoming obstacles – it’s clear that Pennell is, and has always been, ready to face the unknown. So what’s the life lesson that resonates with him the most?
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m 63 years old and used to doing everything on my own. Asking for help is tough. But help is there. If you can ask, you’ll find what you need. I’m grateful I did.”
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.