“The first time I had any hope at all was when I called 2-1-1 and Gail, the voice on the line, said, ‘I guarantee we are going to make something happen for you.’”
Dennis, a veteran, moved to the Inland Empire from Texas. He lived with a couple of different friends for a few months but then found himself homeless and on the street. “I had nowhere to live, no vehicle, no job,” he said. He had been a truck driver and hoped to get a job, but the jobs were in Riverside, a two-hour bus ride away. He had given up all hope. “This is it. I’m going to die here,” he thought. Being a single male, he was sure he could not get help – he should be able to help himself.
After trying to survive for three weeks on the street, a friend suggested he call local shelters and 211.
In San Bernardino County, United Way’s 211 serves as a liaison between local housing agencies and the homeless. The program focuses on the chronically homeless, veterans, and families in crisis. For a veteran like Dennis, the United Way of the Inland Empire was able to connect him to U.S. Vets which housed him free at March Air Force Base for up to six months.
“I was able to get a low-paying job that lasted only a short time. I was afraid I would be kicked out of the housing I had since I couldn’t pay the rent. I didn’t realize I could stay there for up to six months,” he said. “Then I had an opportunity to apply for a job on the base doing construction. I was one of many applying for the job, but they chose me. The job will last until April and it pays more than I have ever made in my life.”
Dennis is helping to build housing for others in his situation. When this job ends he will look for a job as a truck driver. “Getting this job was like winning the lotto,” he said.
If Gail had told me, “Dennis, you’re going to get off the street. You’re going to get some housing, and you’re going to get a job making more money than you ever have your entire life,” I would have said, “You’re smoking!”
“Gail has been there for me every step of the way,” said Dennis. “I can’t say enough nice things about her. She’s absolutely amazing. That’s my angel, right there.”
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