Winston Clark: Formerly Homeless Veteran

May 11, 2015

Winston Clark: Formerly Homeless Veteran

This blog post is from Beth Argent and May Kirby, who both works in Homeless Outreach for Mental Illness Recovery Center, INC.(MIRCI).

In the 80’s, he was a Naval Tactical Navigator, honorably discharged after six years of service. He was married with three daughters. He had always experienced some level of anxiety, but points to a near plane crash during his service as a life-changing event. After that, things began to decline for Winston Clark. He and his wife divorced after he exited the Navy, and he retreated into seclusion. He became homeless.

Throughout the years, Mr. Clark spent time living in a tent, an abandoned warehouse, and various shelters in several states. He found his increasing anxiety a barrier to a functional life, and continued to seek odd jobs and live in precarious situations.

Mr. Clark attempted unsuccessfully to apply for VA service-connected pension several times to no avail. However, he received healthcare benefits through the VA. He eventually tried a stay or two in VA transitional housing but found the surroundings too difficult to manage with thoughts and concerns which plagued him.

Mr. Clark began engaging with MIRCI’s outreach team in late 2012. During that time, he stayed between Transitions, Oliver Gospel Mission, and the street, alternating locations to manage his anxiety. He was open to discussing his concerns of trying to discover what interfered with his progress in recovering from homelessness.

By the summer of 2014 Winston finally became receptive to MIRCI services through a series of frustrating attempts at managing his anxiety and obsessive thoughts. He tried several different medications and spent a short time in the VA hospital after an unsuccessful trial of what was hoped to be a good solution. One day while sitting in the Richland County Public Library talking with the MIRCI outreach team, Winston decided to give living in permanent supportive housing a try. Finally, right after the July 4th holiday 2014, Mr. Clark ended a seventeen-year period of homelessness when he was discharged from the hospital into his apartment through MIRCI’s housing program.

Then the real work began, reassembling all the pieces of life as we know it- down to minutiae such as how to afford toothpaste and toilet paper with no income. MIRCI’s Benefits Specialist set to work, quickly reactivating Winston’s food stamp stipend, and taking over his Social Security application, which was routed through the SOAR process (a program specifically designed to expedite benefits for those experiencing homelessness and mental illness). Since the Benefits Specialist had built such an outstanding rapport with Winston, she was able to provide credible third-party evidence to the disability examiner which helped get Mr. Clark approved and increase his backpay back several years.

Mr. Clark was enrolled in representative payee services through MIRCI and has been receiving financial assistance to ensure that his bills are paid. What incredible relief he has expressed with his new income!  His first purchase was an identical pair of shoes to the pair he had worn for years, of which the sole had completely worn off. He had been used to computers, but had to get used to the new telephone technology, and learned how to send text messages to his grown daughters. What a thrill it has been for Winston Clark to be able to shop for birthday and holiday cards for his girls, and reestablish a relationship he once thought he had lost.

For more information about MIRCI, please click HERE

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