“I’ve been through a lot—and I’m still going through a lot, but I’m not going to give up. I don’t let fear stop me. I have to keep going.”
Serving in the United States Army for two tours, Stanley is no stranger to courage. And so, the decision to move to California after nearly 10 years of service was an easy one. Prospects in Mississippi were scarce, and after leaving the Army, he was ready to build a better life for his family. Stanley took up landscaping when he arrived in Los Angeles, before eventually coming to work with the Veterans Affairs Department. As he and his wife raised their son together, Stanley dedicated himself to his family, working hard to create a secure and stable future. Heartbreakingly, in 2014, tragedy struck: Stanley lost his wife to a fatal accident, leaving him and his son with a void in their family.
Over the next two years, Stanley’s health began to decline as he dealt with the grief of losing his wife. But knowing his son needed him, Stanley was motivated to care for his physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Then one day, while his son was helping a pregnant woman take groceries to her car, another vehicle screeched into the parking lot. Bullets began to fly. Stanley’s son heroically jumped in front of the mom-to-be, taking a bullet for her. But in this selfless act, he lost his own life.
After the devastating passing of his son, Stanley’s support system crumbled. His medical issues grew worse, and the financial burdens piled up. With limited options, Stanley had no choice but to give up his home and move to a shelter in downtown Los Angeles.
Even at the shelter, Stanley was not safe from the dangers that came with experiencing housing insecurity. He was vulnerable and often harassed in the bunk-bed-filled room. One night on his way home from work, Stanley was stalked and violently attacked. While he was able to physically recover, he knew that he couldn’t stay at the shelter any longer. Stanley was forced to move again, but this time, he had no roof over his head.
For the next few months, Stanley experienced a new but equally painful type of homelessness. He made a makeshift home for himself out of a tent in the woods near the VA campus. Every day, he would arrive at work before his coworkers and secretly use the showers and restroom amenities. Stanley describes those months as some of the most desperate and lonely times of his life.
Despite the hardships, Stanley is a survivor. He fought for his future and eventually connected to Step Up, where he was provided with secure, safe housing and rich wraparound supports. At Step Up, Stanley was encouraged to pursue his physical and educational goals, and by connecting with fellow veterans, he found a sense of family.
“We laugh and we talk, and that’s how we keep stepping up for each other,” says Stanley. “Living with a community of veterans is truly a blessing. This apartment means the world to me.”
Most days you can find Stanley on the Veterans Affairs Campus where he now calls Step Up’s onsite veteran’s housing development “home.” He still works for the VA where he just celebrated 18 years of employment. Most importantly, he continues to rebuild his life with the support from donors like you.
“Step Up has really been there for me,” said Stanley. “They helped me learn to use a phone and a laptop. They even taught me how to read! Now I’m able to read and understand the bible. That means the world to me.”
When Stanley is not walking the halls singing his own renditions of Mariah Carey’s “Hero”, you can find him volunteering at his local church. With a contagious smile and an open heart, he loves to bring joy to all those around him. He continues to dedicate himself to his community, spreading his gratitude and love for life wherever he goes.
You can help change the lives of more veterans like Stanley. Make your gift today to help transform lives this summer.