Turning Your Own Key

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Turning Your Own Key

Paul Dillon
Paul A. Dillon is the president and CEO of Dillon Consulting Services LLC. A U.S. Army Reserve veteran, he served in Vietnam as a 1st Lieutenant, and was awarded 2 Bronze Star Medals.

“Housing is a baseline therapeutic intervention for homeless veterans.
Then, you build other needed supports from there.”

–Terry Allebaugh, Ending Veteran Homelessness Coordinator,
North Carolina Department of Military and Veteran Affairs

Millions of words have been written about veteran homelessness and housing over the years. It is an important topic that has captured the nation’s attention—from the White House down to the local community that wants to do something for our nation’s veterans. This is as it should be, for no matter what people think about our recent conflicts around the globe, the citizenry of this great country have finally been able to separate the soldier from the war, and do the best for those who have served—particularly for our nation’s veterans who have fallen on hard times, and become homeless for whatever reason.

This is the story of one of those veterans, Tyrone Flintall, of Durham, NC, and the impact that a stable place to live has had on his life.

Tyrone’s descent into homelessness is probably not untypical for many veterans. Shunned by his mother, he was raised by his grandparents. A high school grad, Tyrone served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1975 to 1978, and in the reserves from 1979 to 1985, first at Ft. Jackson, SC, and then at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, and even a tour in Germany, rising to the rank of E-4.

After Tyrone left the service, he was lost. A bout with lung cancer, a failed marriage, a substance abuse issue, and, finally, a brush with the law, completed his downfall. With nowhere to go, he stayed with a cousin for awhile.

But, then his luck changed.

A meeting with a social service agency in Durham, called Healing With CAARE, Inc., led to two years in veteran transitional housing.

That was the turning point.

Now cancer free and sober for more than four years, Tyrone, 59, moved into the Denson Apartments more than two years ago, an 11-unit complex that houses formerly homeless veterans in Durham. These are single bedroom, unfurnished apartments, but include an indoor community space, a laundry room, and an outside sitting area. Developed by CASA, a Raleigh-based nonprofit that develops affordable housing for people with disabilities in east central North Carolina, the apartments are income based, requiring tenants to pay at least one-third of their monthly income in rent.

The Volunteers of America gave Tyrone the deposit for his apartment. Still unemployed, a HUD-VASH voucher, supplemented by his veteran benefits and Social Security Disability Income, provides his monthly rent and living expenses.

The security of having his own apartment, and the confidence that comes with having a stable place to live, has given Tyrone a new outlook on life. He has applied for a job with the VA, and wants to continue his education. He is a regular church goer. He is clean and sober—and, wants to make something of himself. He believes that his daughter would be proud of how he has turned his life around.

And, it was a permanent place to live that was key to this effort. It does little good if we take a veteran who has been homeless, give him all kinds of services—and, then put him back on the street.

Permanent, stable, clean and safe housing is key.

As Tyrone says, “The stability and peace of mind that comes from turning the key to open up the door of your own apartment gives you the freedom to explore what you want to do with your life, and to communicate with other veterans in a safe space.”

A wise patriot once said, “When a soldier comes home and kisses the ground, they shouldn’t be condemned to live on it.”

Truer words were never spoken.