Gary Stephens, a Veteran currently housed at St. Francis House under the VA Homeless Veterans Program, served as an Army motor transport operator in Fort Stewart Georgia. After his service, he returned to El Dorado, Arkansas and found employment at a chemical plant. “Everything went OK until my parents died. My dad died in ‘89, and my mom died two years later. I just spiraled out of control.”
That spiral included developing an addiction to crack cocaine. “I began getting in trouble with the law with men who had known me all my life. That was really hard- my dad was a police officer. He was the first black commanding officer in our town.”
Mr. Stephens ended up in prison on drug-related charges. When he got out, he decided that going home was not a good decision and entered a treatment program in Little Rock instead.
“I got a job at the humane society, but I’d only be good for eight to ten months and then relapse. Get high, drinking…that’s why I came to St. Francis House. I’m trying to make sure everything is in order. To stay on the right side of the law, stay away from alcohol and drugs.”
“I want Veterans to know, no matter what you’re going through, hold on with every breath in your body and never give up. It’s not as bad as it seems. I’m grateful for the people who support St. Francis House because I don’t know where I’d be- prison, maybe dead. I know some vets say they don’t want the rules, they want to be on their own, but I’d rather be here than on a sidewalk somewhere. I wish more Veterans would take the time to try it. It’s a good place to be.”