Going Above and Beyond

Gordon McGough served in the Army from 1983-1989 in communications intelligence. He was deployed out of Ft. Bragg and served in combat areas during his deployment. After the military, he returned to Arkansas and worked for Sevier County. Later Gordon moved to Alabama to help his father after an illness and where he stayed for ten years. He worked in various construction jobs as a mechanic, electrician, and welder, until he returned to Arkansas to work in Little River. When that company closed he was offered a job in Texas.

Gordon became ill eight years ago and began working with the VA in Texas to diagnose his condition. He could only work part-time, so eventually he returned to Arkansas to receive more medical attention. He came to St. Francis House to live while working with medical staff to resolve his medical issues. “St. Francis House is to be commended for the opportunities they offer Veterans experiencing homelessness for whatever reason. Carol and Ralph have gone above and beyond in getting me the paperwork I need for employment. Mike is helping work with the VA on my medical problems. and my caseworker, Ms. Wilson, does a great job coordinating all the pieces.”

Gordon is now working again and looking forward to getting his medical issues resolved so he can continue moving forward. He is active in the various activities at St. Francis House and is one of the Veterans who speaks with youth when they come visit. St. Francis House is so glad we can be here to help Gordon and pray for a speedy resolution to his medical problems.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Robin Harris knows life from both sides. A Navy Veteran serving as a boiler technician from 1985-1989, he’s no stranger to hard work and discipline. After leaving the service, he worked as a delivery driver and life was good. But a few poor choices put him on the other side.

Robin began using drugs and eventually fell into heavy addiction. “That began a downhill spiral,” says Robin. “I couldn’t keep a job. Spent some time in jail. Even simple things were harder to achieve.” Robin realized he didn’t like that lifestyle and tried to get clean. “But I didn’t really understand what I was looking for. I still wanted to indulge and hadn’t really gotten honest with myself yet.”

Last year he was referred to St. Francis House through the Veterans Day Treatment Center. “This time I took an honest look at things and realized my shortcomings. I went to my meetings, got a sponsor, and worked with the VA and St. Francis house staff. I got a job, a place to live and completed the program at St. Francis House successfully.”

Robin has stayed clean and sober since then. He has kept his job at the Social Security and Disability building and life was looking up. He had spoken with his landlord and let him know he would be moving out when his lease was up. He was ready to move into a better place. Unfortunately, the landlord refused to give him his deposit back when he left, and he couldn’t make the down payment for a new place. Robin called St. Francis House.

Because he had completed the program successfully and had not had problems in the last year, Robin came back to St. Francis House. He has saved enough for a new place to live and is moving in the near future. “Looking over the life I’ve lived, I like how I’m living now better.” Good luck and continued success Robin.  We’re glad we could be a part of your new life!

Help to Start Again

Janice has been coming to St. Francis House since 2010. Working full time, she bought a home and over the years, paid it off. She would come in every few months for food or clothes, then get ahead and we wouldn’t see her for a while. However, a few months ago, everything changed.

Janice’s mother became ill. Taking care of her mother and working took up a lot of time and money. Her mother passed away, and Janice was taking care of both homes as she dealt with her mother’s death. Finally things were getting more settled. Her mother’s house was closed up and all utilities paid and then turned off. Maybe she could get ahead again.

Life doesn’t always follow our plans. Janice lost her job and was living on savings as she looked for new employment.

Then the rains came. Janice’s house was flooded and unlivable. She needed to go somewhere, but the only place was her mother’s home. With no job and no savings, Janice couldn’t afford the fees to turn on the utilities so she came to St. Francis House for help. Thanks to folks like you, St. Francis House was able to help Janice with her utilities so she is now safe and dry and able to start again.

Second Chances

Chito is the kind of guy who’s always ready with a kind word and a smile. Or a joke and a smile. But always a smile. He served in the Navy as a corpsman and worked in construction once he was discharged.

After the military things weren’t so steady. He hurt his back and couldn’t work. He began using street drugs. Eventually he spent some time in prison and ended up homeless. Something had to change.

Chito stopped using and has been clean for two years. He’s in touch with some of his family and wanted to get off the street. That’s where St. Francis House came in. “St. Francis House has given me stability… not having to worry about a place or my things getting stolen. The people are super-nice. Everyone deserves a chance, and I appreciate that St. Francis House gave me the chance to get back on my feet.”

Chito is now working at McClellan Veterans Hospital in housekeeping as part of the Compensated Work Therapy Program. He would like to stay on at the hospital and hopes to move into maintenance where he can use his construction skills. He’ll be getting an apartment soon and be back out on his own. It’s a new chance for Chito. We wish him well and know he’ll keep smiling!

We’re Here to Help

Jimmy comes to St. Francis House occasionally for food. He’s a hard worker, but when you’re hourly with no medical insurance, no sick or vacation time and  no worker’s compensation, an injury can be ruinous. Coming out of work a month ago, Jimmy was assaulted and his jaw was broken. He was in the hospital for almost a full month.

When he got out, he came straight to St. Francis House. Jimmy had never asked for monetary help before and admits it was difficult. “I’ve always been able to pay my bills”. Thanks to people like our donors, St. Francis House had the money to help Jimmy pay his utility bills and not get further behind while he heals.

Jimmy, our prayers for healing are with you; get better quickly and remember, St. Francis House is always here to help.

Going Home

Quiet, polite, a little shy…that is the first impression of veteran Floyd Diggs. But once you get to speak with him, other words come to mind like hard working, determined, dedicated.

Floyd was only 17 when he enlisted in the Army. He served from 2008 until 2012 in Afghanistan and South Korea. By the time he left the service, he was married with a young son. When he returned home, he worked landscaping and warehouse jobs and began adjusting to civilian life.

Unfortunately, marital problems followed and sadly his marriage soon dissolved. “I was also drinking too much and smoking weed. I met another lady and her friends and got involved in stupid stuff.” Floyd was arrested and received probation. “My family was in Tulsa, I was in Fayetteville. I took off and broke my probation.”

Floyd and his lady friend had a child. Money was tight, and his son became ill. The medication he was on caused diarrhea, and they were down to two diapers. “So I went to the store and I stole some. I got caught, sent back to Arkansas and did fourteen months in jail. I came to St. Francis House as part of my parole.”

Floyd is now a part of the Compensated Work Therapy program. He works second shift at McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital. Since he has no transportation, he checks out a St. Francis House bicycle each afternoon to ride to work and rides back each night. He still wants to return home, but this time, he is doing it the right way. He has requested a transfer and will find out soon if it has been approved. Though we will miss him at St. Francis House, we’re glad to know he’ll be going home.

Veterans’ Re-entry and Veterans’ Re-integration Working Together

As anyone at St. Francis House knows, not much can get Paris Copp down! Paris is a former Air force aircraft mechanic and investigator. He served from 2001-2012 and, after he left the Air Force, made his living doing a variety of jobs.

A car accident left him unable to work for a time, and eventually he lost everything. He came to St. Francis House the first time in 2016 as part of the Veterans’ Re-Entry program, which works with Veterans experiencing homelessness. Working with the Veterans Re-Integration program, he found a job and successfully completed the program, moving into his own place.

Unfortunately, 2017 found him once more unemployed after a lay-off, and he returned to St. Francis House to get back on his feet. True to form, nothing keeps Paris down for long. Working through both programs, he currently has a new job and recently dropped off the paperwork for housing. “I’m really grateful for the programs at St. Francis House. If you do what you need to do, you can always get back up. You’ll always make it as long as you don’t give up.”

Best wishes, Paris! We know nothing can keep you down!

Social Services and Veterans’ Services Working Together

It’s always fun when we have families at St. Francis House, and our current “child clients” are always sure to make us smile! Father, John Mann, served in the Army as a fire control repair technician for the Apache helicopters. When a service connected injury make it impossible for him go on with the flight training, he decided to leave the service.

He worked as a heavy machine operator, but a back injury led to chronic pain and drug use. This led to legal issues and drifting in and out of jobs and relationships. He entered rehab through the VA and even received a scholarship for his freshman year of college, but the problems continued, and he eventually dropped out.

Enter wife, Cheyenne, with a beautiful smile and an obvious love for John and their two boys. Together they’re starting over. “I’m a skilled individual, but I made some bad choices. I have six kids and two step step-children, and I want these two to have a good life. When the VA representative at the unemployment office told me about this program, I knew it would be a good move.”

John borrowed the money to get to Little Rock and got a referral from the Veterans’ Day Treatment Center to come to St. Francis House.
But young children need things that Veterans’ Services couldn’t provide. Through St. Francis House Social Services, John and Cheyenne were able to get clothing and diapers for the children, gas, and vouchers to find a pre-school.

“At St. Francis House, everybody is good people. Here we have stability and the support to make responsible decisions.” Welcome to St. Francis House, Mann family. We’re so glad you’re here!

It’s Hard to Ask for Help

Tanya has always loved animals. After high school, she turned that love into a career and became a veterinary technician. “It was really hard to give that up…but when I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor I had in 2006, I had no choice.” Even after surgery and radiation, Tanya remains mobility impaired, getting around only with the use of a wheelchair. Because of this, she still couldn’t return to work and she began the long process of getting on disability. “It took two years and because of the medical bills, I had to declare bankruptcy.”

Each month, Tanya relies on disability of $756 and $16 of food stamps. She inherited her house which is “a blessing.” But it’s still hard. “I go to food banks two to three times a month and come here once a month. My daughter helps out when she can, but I don’t like to ask for help, and I don’t want to take things unless I have to. There are people out there who need it more than I do.”

St. Francis House is more than just a place to get help. Often the staff are the friendly ear when things seem too tough to handle. “I was raised to work, to pay into Social Security, to give back to the neighborhood. It’s hard to keep from feeling frustrated and depressed sometimes. The people here always take time to talk”.

Sometimes Help is Just Information Away

Jimmy Perry served in the Army Infantry from 1978 to 1981 as a material supply clerk. He is justifiably proud of being responsible for a quarterly budget of $200,000 and “never losing a penny”. After he left the Army, he moved to Florida, working in general maintenance and metal shop work.

When his parents became ill, he returned home to Virginia to care for them. After their deaths, he moved to Texas for work. He had come to Hot Springs on vacation several times and fell in love with the town, eventually finding a job there. He bought a house, and for a time things were going well. “But then I lost my job, then my car, then my house, and ended up homeless.” As often happens, during that time, he also made some poor choices. “I got dependent on alcohol.”

Jimmy was going through a soup line when he noticed some people asking the clients if they were Veterans. That moment was a turning point. The friendly faces were caseworkers from the Veterans Day Treatment Center here in Little Rock. “They asked me if I knew about the services available for Veterans. I had never heard of such a thing. They definitely saved my life.”

Two weeks later Jimmy was sitting in the parking lot of the courthouse waiting on a van to take him to St. Francis House. An officer asked him what he was doing there. “I explained and later that policeman came back and had brought me breakfast!”

Jimmy has been at Saint Francis House for five months now. While he has been there he has worked in the kitchen and has gotten a reputation for being willing to help whenever he is needed. Director of Veteran Affairs, Ken Mace, describes him as “the kind of guy you can ask to help with anything, and he will lend a hand.” He is currently working through the Compensated Work Therapy program and is looking forward to being on his own again soon. “My voucher for housing is approved and my deposit is done. I’m just waiting for the inspection.” He hopes to move into full-time employment at the VA hospital in housekeeping and work his way into the maintenance department.

Mr. Perry, we’ll miss you, but we wish you “God speed” and know that you’ll continue to bless those who need a hand!