Warren, an Army veteran with a deep, booming voice and a warm smile, had imagined many things in his future: traveling the globe, eating foreign cuisine, and cooking with unique recipes.
Being homeless and in need of food was never one of them.
Warren was 20 years old when he entered the military. He was deployed to Ethiopia, and later to Panama and Germany. He spent eleven years serving his country – first as an analyst and then as a warrant officer – before returning to the US and joining the workforce as a civilian. He would spend the next twenty plus years working in the private and public sectors.
As retirement neared, Warren was looking forward to spending time relaxing and pursuing his hobbies, including rooting for the Washington Redskins, keeping up with politics, cooking, and traveling. But, he soon found that his income during retirement didn’t match the rising costs of Washington, D.C. He struggled financially. Groceries became harder and harder to afford. Eventually, he lost his house.
After stints of living with various friends and family in an effort to stabilize his life, Warren was forced to face the reality that he needed help. He turned to Capital Area Food Bank partner Access Housing Inc., a nonprofit program focused on assisting veterans with food, transitional housing, job training, and other services.
Warren still remembers the day he came to Access, breaking down as he was shown his room. It had been years since he had had a bed of his own, let alone, as he said, his “own four walls”. Regular nutritious meals were also a change from his current diet. He began to feel that change was possible.
Dwayne Jones, a program coordinator with Access, said that the organization helps men and women of many ages and military backgrounds to find permanent housing, navigate a system of benefits that can enable them to regain stability, and set other goals appropriate to their circumstances and life stage.
Warren noted that the food bank is an essential enabler of this work. “By partnering with the food bank on meals, we’re able to create more room in the budget for case management, housing counseling, job counseling, motivational speakers, a staff therapist, and the on-site medical clinic,” Dwayne said. “This ensures a robust program for our veterans to work their way toward their goals.” Goals like the ones Warren has set for himself, which include having a home of his own once again, and enough income to see him through the rest of retirement.
He still dreams of traveling and cooking, looking forward to the day when he has a kitchen of his own where he can, as he likes to say, make “meals for anyone’s taste buds.” With food and support to fuel his journey, Warren is looking towards a hopeful future a bit more like the one he envisioned.
Twenty percent of the households served by the Capital Area Food Bank have a member who is a veteran of the US military. Your support helps these former service members, along with hundreds of thousands of other men, women, and children in our area, to get the food they need today, and fuels a network of nonprofit partners that provide services to help them thrive tomorrow.