The Kitchen’s Home At Last program received $491,000 to continue their mission of helping homeless and at-risk Veterans off the streets and into a home.
For one Army Veteran, Home At Last has proven it is achieving its goal. For him, the program has changed his life.
“There was a time that I never thought I would live indoors again,” said Michael Raymond.
He had no place to call home for about three years.
“You lose all of your normal habits, like brushing your teeth, or showering or whatever,” he said.
Originally from California, he first became homeless in San Francisco.
“I remember there was a period of time for like three months I had not even taken a shower,” Raymond said.
A friend bought him a ticket to Springfield, gave him a place to stay and a job with his business that eventually went under. Raymond ended up homeless again.
“I lived outside, stay at Victory Mission, stayed with a new friend, lived outside, went back to Victory Mission,” he said.
It was at Victory Mission that he found out he could have a place again through Home At Last, but thought it was too good to be true. He said he had little faith in government assistance and non-profits promising to help Veterans from his experience in San Francisco.
“It’s hard to believe in good news,” Raymond said. “It’s hard because so many bad things just keep happening, and it keeps happening, and you don’t want to believe, and you don’t feel like you can trust good news.”
But it was true. And now Raymond has lived in a home in Springfield for about four months now.
“I have all the support systems,” he said. “You just don’t know how difficult it is when you don’t have running water, a bathroom, a washer and dryer, a shower.”
Home At Last helps Veterans find an apartment or house and pays for rent, utilities, and other moving expenses until they can afford it themselves.
“Some individuals might need just one or two months of assistance to get a place to live, find a job, get back on their feet. Some people might need five, six, seven months of assistance,” said Randy McCoy, director of housing programs at The Kitchen.
Over the last four years of its existence, Home At Last has housed 348 Veterans. McCoy says the program has an 80 to 85 percent success rate.
Raymond will be on his own in about a month. He now has a job that allows him to work from home and he says he has been saving up to keep up with the bills in his new home. He says he is thankful for the program that’s guided him toward a better future.
“It’s meant everything,” he said. “It’s like I’m a normal person again, no one who ever meets me thinks I was ever homeless.”