Dennis Madrid - From crossing the European Alps on foot, to walking the streets of Bakersfield as a homeless vet, to helping others turn their lives around
As a Veteran of the U.S. Army Airborne Division, where I served from 1984 to 1987, I know what it’s like to do elite cold-weather training in Europe and what it feels like to cross the Alps on foot.
As a formerly homeless Veteran, I also know what it’s like first hand to be on the street for seven years (from 2001 to 2008) with no place to rest my head.
My homelessness was largely due to an addiction to marihuana and methamphetamine. But thanks to the great assistance California Veterans Assistance Foundation (CVAF) provides to homeless veterans, I can now say that I am clean and have been given the opportunity to be all I can be.
When I first came in contact with CVAF in 2003, I started out as a resident, going through the process of overcoming addictions and barriers to employment. But I wasn’t ready yet: I was using drugs and noncompliant, and therefore could not continue in the program.
But I came back as a client in 2009, and started getting my life together, going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and stepping up my game. I successfully completed the program in 11 months, and got my Social Security and HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) benefits to help me get into housing—and stay housed.
CVAF further helped me by hiring me as a case manager at its Buena Vista Street location, where I learned how to open doors for Veterans that would otherwise be closed. I helped them acquire living skills so they could become independent enough to make it in today’s society.
Through all this, I must have done something right, as CVAF saw fit to give me the opportunity to advance even more as a Program Director. In educating others, I also educate myself. In helping fellow Veterans to get their lives on track, I am encouraged to keep my own life on track. I still attend NA meetings and am going to church as well.
Learning the tools while in the program has taught me the skills to advance in life and at work. No one said it would be easy—and it’s not. But I’ll never forget where I’ve been and I’ll always keep my eyes focused on what is right for me, CVAF and our fellow Veterans.
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