Bronte’ Wilson, an Army Veteran currently housed at St. Francis House under the VA Homeless Veterans Program, served her country as am Army National Guard from 1991 through 2016. She worked primarily with a medical detachment as a dental specialist and did six humanitarian missions, five in Latin America and one on the USNS Comfort off the coast of Estonia. She also had a deployment to Afghanistan where she worked in communications.
Ms. Wilson lived most of her life in Maryland where she grew up. She has a Bachelors in Behavioral Science and while in the National Guard, worked with special needs populations. She became a certified Massage Therapist in 2014.
Ms. Wilson was working at a school for the disabled when she was deployed. The school terminated her contract while she was overseas so she came back to no job. “I came back to an empty townhouse. I was single, had no job. I became depressed. I moved to Arkansas because I needed a change.”
Unfortunately, once here she found that there was no reciprocity between states for her Massage Therapy Certification and the classes she would need were pricey. Then, before she could find a way to work, she was diagnosed with severe carpal tunnel syndrome and could not do massage until cleared by her doctor. She got behind on her rent and just a few weeks ago was told she had to leave. “I became homeless right as the COVID-19 restrictions started.”
That’s when Ms. Wilson contacted her transition caseworker from Operation Enduring Freedom at McClelland. “Everyone from OEF has a transition caseworker to help you back into civilian life after a deployment. My previous caseworker told me who to contact at McClelland and my caseworker there recommended St. Francis House. If I had had St. Francis House right after deployment, it would have helped a lot.”
In addition to carpal tunnel, Ms. Wilson also suffers from PTSD from a childhood trauma and aggravated by her deployment to Afghanistan. “St. Francis House has been wonderful. It’s a great way to transition. If I wasn’t here, I think I would still be out there lost.”
Ms. Wilson also brought her “family’ with her to St. Francis House, a beautiful dog named Butterscotch. “I knew I needed something to help my fight my depression and decided to get a pet. We’ve been best buds since Day One. She’s helped me a lot…she’s would get out and run over to a neighbors’ yard. I’d have to go get her and that forced me to go outside and interact with people. She seems to know exactly what I need.”
Ms. Wilson’s upbeat personality is already helping out at St. Francis House. “We have affirmations for every day hanging in the halls to help keep us upbeat during all this. I came up with several of them“, she said smiling as she pointed out the ones she created. “I’ve learned so much about life from the other Veterans. Being homeless isn’t something I ever thought would happen, but I know God is in charge and if I trust in Him, He’ll get me through the storm.”