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When 51-year-old Yvonne sits down with her Downtown Women’s Center case manager Johanna Lopez, she’s all smiles.
“I just found out I’m getting an apartment,” Yvonne announces happily. “It’s amazing! So close to the holidays.”
There was a time not long ago when Yvonne wouldn't have had a home for the holidays.
After graduating high school and a semester in college, the Arizona native joined the army to work in satellite communications. She completed two tours of duty in Germany, but at the end of her second, her mother passed away. Returning to the U.S., she joined the National Guard and several years later became a state trooper in Texas.
“For about 9 years I was a state trooper,” Yvonne recalls, “and then I left that job and became a truck driver for another 9 years.”
Growing up, Yvonne says, she watched both of her parents struggle with alcoholism. After her father died when she was young, Yvonne, her twin brother, and two younger siblings were sent to live with a Mormon family in Utah during the school year.
"Despite anything that’s thrown at you, you can’t quit. There’s no such thing as quitting. You can’t."
Despite learning to survive on her own at a young age, Yvonne still considers her time in the military one of the most valuable experiences of her life. “My experience [in the army], it is still in me. Respect. And survival. Despite anything that’s thrown at you, you can’t quit. There’s no such thing as quitting. You can’t.”
“To me, I think everyone growing up should at least be given the chance to have some kind of military discipline in their life,” she goes on. “If I had a choice, I would have never gotten out. I would have died in the military. What led me down this path [to homelessness] is alcohol.”
Yvonne was cited for her first DUI while driving to Los Angeles, and then a second in Phoenix. “I tried stopping,” she confesses, “and I couldn’t.”
Her vehicles were impounded and she began to experience seizures from her heavy drinking.
“I guess my pride got in the way. I didn’t want nobody’s help,” she says. “I said, ‘Well, I got myself here, might as well live with what I have.’” She pauses to take off her glasses and wipe her eyes. “It’s been a long road to recovery.”
After a particularly bad seizure about a year and a half ago, as well as ongoing pain from her arthritis, enough was enough for Yvonne.
She returned to Los Angeles from a Navajo reservation in Arizona, where she had been living in housing that had no electricity or running water. While living on the streets of LA, unable to access the resources she desperately needed, Yvonne went to the VA clinic on Temple Street and was given a phone number.
The number connected her to Johanna in DWC’s Veterans Program.
"That gave me a sense of purpose to follow."
“It was less than 2 weeks later!” Yvonne says, laughing in disbelief. “And then I had my [Housing Choice] Voucher. And you know, even with all of the craziness happening, Johanna kept on top of me, saying, ‘You gotta make these appointments and do this.’ And that gave me a sense of purpose to follow.”
Yvonne describes how surprised she was by the amount of resources at DWC, and by how Johanna walked every step of the way with her. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have had this appointment for next week to get this apartment. And now it’s like, I’m sober and it’s like starting over."
“Everything I’ve got, I’ve gotten on the street. But I’m gonna have something that’s gonna be mine. Everything in it is gonna be mine. It’s a freakin’ good feeling, you know? To be able to have that because somebody cared enough to help me find an apartment. It’s a wonderful feeling." She smiles again. "Somebody cares.”
DWC's Veterans Program housed 27 women and their families in its first year, and with your help we can continue to support women like Yvonne on the journey to stability. Please make a donation today to honor the veterans in your life.