No Requirements Except to Progress

Air Force Veteran Ronald Alexander served his country from 1978-1979. “I joined up at seventeen and I was aircrew life support. I installed survival equipment like O2 masks and helmets on airplanes. I didn’t serve very long; I wish now I’d been a career guy. But I was young and dumb and didn’t know what I wanted.”

Mr. Alexander grew up in Texas but moved to Little Rock for High School. He was stationed at Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana. After leaving the military he moved back to texas and got his certification as a beautician. “I thought I wanted to make that my career, but once I started doing it, I didn’t like it. I went back and forth between that and other jobs until I moved back to Little Rock to help my mom start a beauty supply business.”

They built a thriving business, but when his mother got ill in 1992, they had to sell and Mr. Alexander returned to cutting hair. He began college at UALR in 1997, left when got married and the family moved to Hot Springs. “I got a job filling vending machines which was physically demanding, but good pay. With three step-children and eventually a new daughter, that was important.”

He became a stay-at-home dad when his wife got a better-paying job, but when the marriage failed he had a hard time finding full-time employment. He was able to meet the requirements for Section 8 housing by doing part-time and odd jobs for two years, but eventually, without steady employment, he couldn’t pay his portion and became homeless.

Mr. Alexander moved to Little Rock in 2013 where he first lived at Our House, found a job, and then moved to Nehemiah House on their work program. He continued working and living there for seven years when he decided to move to Bryant to be near his daughter. He found a job, enrolled in school to finish his bachelor’s, and even began a master’s. But when his car broke down and he couldn’t get to work, he began to fall behind and eventually lost his apartment and all his possessions. “Even during that, there are good things. The sheriff’s deputy who came when I was evicted gave me money so I could go to dinner that night. He wouldn’t take no for an answer so thanks to a good person, I got a nice meal before I had to leave for Little Rock. That was special for me.”

Upon returning to Little Rock, he went to the Compassion Center and a fellow Veteran told him about the veterans Day Treatment Center. “I had never even checked into VA benefits because I thought I wouldn’t be eligible. But I was and they got me into St. Francis House.”

Mr. Alexander is pleased to be getting help with his benefits and housing, but what he likes most is the way the St. Francis House program is run. “There is accountability but no threat; it’s strictly business and there are no requirements except to progress.”