When Robert Medler left his home Thursday to take part in the point in time count, he wasn’t just another volunteer from Grayson College. He wasn’t even just another veteran volunteer. He is a formerly homeless veteran who is working his way toward a degree and a whole new life.
“I have been there,” Medler said. “I have walked in their shoes.”
He was homeless for two years before he got a place to live.
“Right now I am enrolled in the HUD VASH program which I get funding for my apartment through the federal program,” Medler said.
the HUD VASH program is a joint venture between the departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and is administered locally through the Texoma Council of Governments.
The problem started, Medler said, when he came home after serving in the military. He struggled with post traumatic stress disorder and lost his job. Then he lost his housing.
He lived out of his car before finding a spot in TCOG’s program. After spending so much time living in the car, he said, living in an apartment didn’t feel right.
“It wasn’t natural for me — it felt unsafe for me, at first,” Medler said. “It felt like I didn’t deserve it.”
Medler said he is still trying to feel like he has really found a home, but at the same time, knows “this is not a permanent thing.” He is still working to finish his degree in Licensed Chemical Dependency Counseling and expects to graduate next December.
He picked that field to study because there have been people in his life who have struggled with chemical dependency and mental health issues and he wanted to be able to help people who faced similar struggles.
“Seventy percent of homeless vets have substance abuse issues,” he said. “It is a passion of mine to not necessarily eradicate the problem, but to address the issue and help them as much as possible.”
While he has found a home for now, Medler said he never takes that for granted. He knows that he has to continue working to keep that roof over his head and to move forward. He looks forward to being able to leave the program as a success story.
He said he wants to be able to say, “I own that. I earned it with my own blood, sweat and tears.” He knows he earned the benefit that currently provides him with housing by serving his country in the military, but it is not the same thing.
Giving back through service to programs like the point-in-time count, Medler said, is one way that he is able to pay forward some of the good things that have happened to him.
“Without the PIT count, we leave the federal funds on the table,” Medler said. “Without the federal funds, we don’t get funding we need to the shelters or the fundamental health services, the dental, the substance abuse, the clothing, the missions, the things that any homeless person or any person who falls under the poverty level needs to survive or to make that jump.”
Medler said he wanted to thank the other student veterans who helped with the event and the club advisers.