From Homelessness to Home

Allan Deen was only seventeen when he joined the National Guard in Texas. He had waited a year since speaking with the recruiter, just long enough for him to join with his father’s permission.

He finished boot camp and was about to go home, find a job, and begin his life as a “week-end warrior” when he was called up for active duty. Three days later Allan was deployed.

Allan spent a year and a half in Iraq and was just eighteen years old when he took his first life. Allan came back to Texas in 2005 and worked full time as a correction officer.

But his time in battle had left its scars, and the stress of being a correction officer was too much. Diagnosed with PTSD, he received a medical discharge in 2008. Allan returned to his home state of Mississippi and began working at a local drugstore. He began to make a new life outside of the military.

Unfortunately, domestic struggles began to spiral out of control and eventually he lost his job. He became homeless, sleeping in campgrounds on empty land with only a tent for shelter. He was cited for camping without a permit on several occasions, and those debts began to add up.

Eventually he was arrested and given a choice, go to the VA for help or go to jail. Allan chose the VA and eventually found his way to St. Francis House.

Allan has made the most of his time at St. Francis House. When he was given an opportunity to work full time as a wok check at Pei Wei, he studied the company, their menu, and wok cooking to make sure he could do his job well. His managers and teammates speak highly of him and recognize the commitment to walk to and from work every day, about an hour each way.  Once Allan even ran to work in the rain when they were short a chef. Thankfully, a donor gave St. Francis House two bicycles for the veterans to share, and riding has cut his transit time in half when a bike is available.

Allan is grateful for the support of his team. When he came on board, they bought him non-slip kitchen shoes and gave him extra sets of uniforms. They have even helped with cab rides home on occasion. “I’m not the kind to ask for help, so I always start walking home. But the team is so kindhearted they’ll look for me on the streets and give me ride.” The staff’s respect for Allan is wholly returned. “It’s a team oriented place; we all help each other out with everything.”

Allan is looking forward to having his wife, step-daughter, and son join him here in Little Rock soon. His second son is due at the end of October, and Allan hopes to be in permanent housing by then – a celebration of new beginnings.

“This experience has taught me to appreciate what I have, and I’ve learned that even when it seems like nothing can be done, don’t give up. I’ve seen that there really are people who want to help. The staff here always go out of their way to help, even if it’s not their job.”