For Wayne, the Veterans Transitional Living Program was set up perfectly.
Follow the rules. Be in on time. Take advantage of the opportunity.
It was also his fourth attempt at treatment and the first time he was really ready for a change.
Wayne grew up in Philadelphia, and upon high school graduation he had a choice: military or the streets.
So at 17, he packed up for boot camp.
The Army sent him to Korea, where he started drinking in part to deal with homesickness.
He trained in communications then as a mechanic and finally in personnel, where he was tapped to make death notifications and serve at funerals. He would sometimes dream about reciting the speech he had to give at notifications.
His drinking got worse. It cost him three marriages and eventually he left the military.
Wayne didn’t even want to be called a Veteran. So he took off and wandered from city to city until he landed at a homeless shelter in Texarkana.
“I was going to just give in to my addiction,” he said. “I wasn’t a bad person. I just couldn’t deal with the stuff in my head.”
But the staff there saw something in him and talked him into going to the VA and then to Volunteers of America’s Transitional Housing Program.
The 56-bed program provides the basics of food, shelter and support, while physical and mental health needs are taken care of by the VA. All clients are required to save a portion of their income and either work, go to school or volunteer during the day.
Between the structure of the program and the staff, Wayne knew he could succeed.
“If they care about me, I thought maybe I can learn to care about myself,” he said.
He worked the program and now has his own car, is working on certifications for heating and air conditioning repair and even has plans to visit his mom at Christmas.
“Nothing’s going to stop me now.”