A homeless veteran realizing his potential

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Last week on our Facebook page, we shared a picture of Horace, a veteran and Coalition for the Homeless First Steps Substance Abuse Recovery Program client, in his cap and gown after graduating magna cum laude from Florida Technical College.

With an overwhelming response from our followers, we couldn’t wait to share Horace’s full story – his incredible journey from addiction to graduationHomeless veteran

Horace grew up in a single parent household with three sisters. “It wasn’t easy,” he recalls. Throughout his childhood, he was classified as a special needs student. “I was looked at and perceived as a poor student, so I began acting that way. I became a problem child.”

Managing to graduate from high school, Horace attended college where he was on both the football and swim teams. His senior year, however, he saw that his mother was struggling financially and withdrew from school to join the Army.

While serving our country, Horace unfortunately picked up a drug and alcohol habit. When he left the Army after 12 years of service, his addictions truly began to affect his life. “My alcohol and drug addictions just took off,” he said. “And I was trying to fix everything on my own without reaching out for help…I went from one good job to the next. I couldn’t sustain them.”

First Steps Substance Abuse Recovery ProgramThe turning point in Horace’s life was when he was sent to prison for an outstanding warrant. While in prison, he received encouragement from Sister Warren. “She was the first person to tell me I am intelligent and strong in a lot of areas,” he said. “I had never thought that.”

Upon his release from prison, Horace went to a veterans’ transition house where he attended cosmetology school. “I got out of prison at 56 years old and had nothing and nowhere to go…I didn’t have a career, money, or clothesI wanted to do something about that. It was the first time I put my pride down and started asking people for help and suggestions.”

He then came to the Coalition, where he has continued his education and recovery. “[First Steps] is an amazing program…All the tools, resources, and people you need in your life are around you… I have my family back in my life. I’m active in my recovery. I graduated magna cum laude with a 3.85 GPA from Florida Technical College. I’m currently taking online courses with a 4.0 GPA.  I’m saving money and learning how to budget…I’ve learned to persevere. I used to have insecurities; I didn’t think I had this potential.”

Six years clean, Horace is now a licensed barber in the state of Florida. His future is full of promise thanks to those who have given him a hand up. “My long term goal is to become a homeowner,” he said. “To one day turn the key and open the door to my own home.”

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