Help Them Help Themselves

Army Veteran Michael McPherson served his country in the Army National Guard from 1981 to 1985 and in the Army from 1985 to 1988. He grew up in Yakima, Washington, but has worked all over the country putting his knowledge of supply chains to good use.

After going back to Washington and working for the VA, he had saved up enough money to take “a long, slow drive and find where I wanted to live.” Mr. McPherson continued “It was time to leave Washington. I decided life was too short to live somewhere I didn’t really like.  With a good employment history at the VA, I planned to re-apply wherever I ended up. I came to Arkansas and decided to stay. But the VA had lost my final paperwork and without it, I can’t return to employment. I looked for other jobs, but with a permanent address I couldn’t get hired and without a job, I couldn’t find a place to live. I stayed in inexpensive motels, then lived in my car, basically, I ended up homeless. I called the VA Homeless Veteran Hotline and that’s how I came here.”

But that’s not all of Mr. McPherson’s story. As he talked, he asked if this story might “help other people”. That’s when he shared a little more of his journey. “I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2014. Not from anything in the military, from the murder of my daughter and my unborn granddaughter. For a year I was drinking and not doing well. I decided to get help and went to the VA in Wallwalla where they have a sober living program. Then I went into a twenty-eight-day program. I was excepted into the Compensated Work Therapy program and worked every job I could find. That’s how I ended up full-time at the VA as a medical support assistant. I liked that job because we helped Veterans get the help they needed whatever that was. My philosophy was to never leave a Veteran hanging. I always followed up with other agencies; I would even call to let them know someone might be contacting them.”

Mr. McPherson is still working on getting that VA paperwork, but in the meantime, he is applying for other jobs and looking for housing through the HUD/VASH program.  “I’m an upbeat, chipper person and I like being self-sufficient. But I would tell any Vet to ask for help when you need it. And I would tell everyone else ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover. There are a thousand causes of homeless. And don’t just give a hand-out, help them help themselves.’ ”