He was a successful health care professional with a solid family life.
A hearing disability from construction, a burnout from his hospital work and a divorce eventually left this Navy veteran homeless.
As Rob relayed his personal account and expressed accolades for veterans services agencies, he periodically cringed from headaches caused by nerve damage.
“Can you imagine making a good living and something all of a sudden trips you up, and you end up losing your job and other things and then you are homeless?” he asked. What do you do?
“Military people have a lot of pride and it’s not easy to ask for help,” he continued. “You go to the people who understand you the most — the veterans services people. I can’t say enough about how much they have helped.”
Rob, 55, who didn’t want to have his last name divulged, lives in one-bedroom apartment in Chaska as part of Carver County Community Development Agency’s rental assistance program designed to assist the homeless.
The county’s CDA’s rental assistance program has 17 units specified for the homeless, with three designated for veterans.
The CDA recently formed a partnership with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) to help house homeless veterans.
Carver County purchased and is renovating a four-unit housing complex at 119 Second St. W. in Chaska, with occupancy expected at the start of 2020, according to Julie Frick, executive director of the county’s CDA.
“We are doing what we can to help the homeless veterans,” Frick said. “Homelessness as a general population has increased in Carver County and has come to the forefront.”
The CDA purchased the property and will own and manage it. MACV, which provides a structured assistance program for homeless veterans, will refer veterans to the Carver County program and provide case management.
“Having a place to live is so great,” Rob emphasized. “I don’t know where I would be without all the help I’ve gotten. It takes a lot to get back on your feet. Nobody wants to be homeless.”
Rob, a native of Michigan, served four years in the medical unit of the Navy Seabees, the Navy’s construction battalion. He worked as a respiratory therapist in New Orleans and Milwaukee, and served as an EMT 12 years before he started getting sick and having seizures from a nerve disease.
Things fell apart and he lost his job and became homeless in Milwaukee, at times utilizing a homeless shelter, sleeping in cars or finding a stairwell for shelter. He later moved to various locations in Minnesota for work and to be closer to his children, but still struggled with homelessness and maintaining a job.
“Once you are down, it’s hard to get back up,” he said. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and most embarrassing. But, kids and family keep me motivated.
“When you are homeless, you don’t think about next week; just today and tomorrow,” Rob added. “You think, what am I going to lose today that’s mine?”
Rob rides his bike about a half mile to his night shift work which ends at 6:30 a.m.
“The county vet services center helped me find a place to live and got me in touch with other groups who have helped with furniture, pots and pans and other things,” Rob said. “I wouldn’t have a place to live without their help.”
Rob praised the efforts of those connected with the homeless veterans housing project, calling it “essential” for them to have a place to live.
“You can’t get a job if you have no place to live, and you can’t get a place to live if you don’t have a job,” he said. “It’s a cycle that’s difficult to get out of.”
Carver County Veteran Service officer Dan Tengwall said the partnership between CDA and MACV for the housing project and other services “is so good for our homeless veterans.
“This new housing is a great way to help those in need,” Tengwall said, adding that his office is currently tracking five veterans in the county who are at risk or who are homeless now. “There is a need for transitional housing; the need is out there.”