Sometimes the Hardships Start Early

Dixie Carter, a Veteran currently housed at St. Francis House under the VA Homeless Veterans Program, served her country as an Army veterinary technician from 2000-2001. Unfortunately, her hardships began much earlier and left her with a legacy of emotional and verbal abuse, addiction issues and unhealthy decisions. “My mom died when I was very young. My step-mother….well, she gave me this” pointing to a scar near her eye. “I joined the military to escape.”

Unfortunately, like so many abuse victims, she quickly fell into a pattern of drinking to feel better. “It was a party every weekend. I met got involved with a fellow soldier and got pregnant. It turns out he wasn’t interested after that. I left the Army soon after the baby was born. “ Not surprisingly, her family wasn’t supportive, and she became homeless. Her sister adopted the child; the family abandoned her.

“It seemed like I could never win. I met men I thought were great guys, and eventually, they would be abusive. I would go straight; I would go back. One of the great guys- it turned out he was a meth dealer…. and I got introduced to that. I went to prison…and my children went to foster care. I finally got them out of care in 2015. “

Ms. Carter eventually came to Little Rock fleeing another abusive situation. “I went into a shelter for domestic violence got clean again and went back to him.  It was like I had a self-destruct button. One more time, I thought I could save him.  The final realization was when I looked, and I saw the same look in my daughter’s eyes. I had to get out. “

Ms. Carter began looking at shelters, trying to find somewhere to go. “And then the strangest coincidences happened. I received an unexpected package from the VA in the mail about benefits so I decided to go to Fort Roots to see if I could get help. While there I came across an article about a female Veteran who had stayed at St. Francis House. I had even been to the food bank there, but I didn’t know about the Veterans’ programs. I went straight to the Day treatment, got a referral and came here!“

Ms. Carter and her daughter, Chloe are now a part of the St. Francis House family. She is back in touch with her sister, and eventually, she hopes to talk with her oldest daughter. “It may sound odd, but being here is so much better than anywhere I was. Chloe and I don’t want for anything, and it’s amazing to have the support system I never had. It’s like a have a whole group of big brothers.”