When meeting Chuck, one finds a person with a calm and friendly demeanor, soft-spoken and measured in his words. What one doesn’t see are the invisible scars, left over from his time in the Army during the first Gulf War.
A formerly homeless veteran, Chuck and his wife, Michelle, live in an apartment at Compass on Dexter. His rent is subsidized by his VASH voucher, a federal program that provides housing assistance for military veterans.
Chuck, 47, bears the scars from his service quietly, a technique he learned from his father in childhood.
“I developed a talent when I was really young to hide my emotions,” he said. “If something is troubling you, you keep it to yourself.”
An Army veteran from 1988 – 1996, Chuck served as a cavalry scout during Operation Desert Storm. The experience left him with post-traumatic stress and the accompanying anxiety and depression. Coping with those symptoms is an ongoing challenge.
“It can be very, very hard for me to bring myself back,” he said.
Add to this maelstrom of anxiety and post-traumatic stress the fear and vulnerability of homelessness. It was about three years ago, when financial problems snowballed. After falling behind on rent at their apartment, Chuck received a court judgment and began to see his wages garnished. The couple moved to a second apartment, but their income wasn’t adequate to keep up on rent while paying down the judgment against them.
Eventually they were evicted. With nowhere else to go, they began living at the hotel where Chuck worked. The arrangement wouldn’t last; soon they were bouncing between hotel rooms and staying with friends. A few nights, Chuck slept in a park or simply roamed around all night. Eventually, they moved into a one-bedroom apartment that they shared with five other people. In troubling times, the couple leaned on each other for support.
“I didn’t realize what love was until I found Michelle,” Chuck said. “She’s stuck with me through a lot of hard times.”
Their journey out of homelessness began in July 2013, when they moved into the Renton Veterans Center. The Compass Housing Alliance program provides transitional and permanent housing for military veterans and their families. While living in transitional housing in the Renton center, Chuck found a job with a company that does telecommunications support for a major tech company; he still works there today. The job has allowed the couple to pay down debts and build up savings.
In December of 2014 came even more welcome news: The couple had been approved for a VASH voucher, which provides a rent subsidy for veterans in need of permanent housing. Around the same time, they learned they’d found a new, and permanent, home. Their apartment at Compass on Dexter was ready.
“Now that we’re here, there are a lot of opportunities opening up,” Chuck said. “It’s a lot easier now that I don’t have to worry about housing.” He mentioned the building’s prime location – in South Lake Union, a thriving hub of innovation – as a great advantage in his career search.
And he’s had the support of a compassionate and skilled group of Compass Housing Alliance staff.
“I can’t speak highly enough of what they’ve done for us,” he said. “It’s let me concentrate on what we need to take care of.”