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Affordable Housing , Community Development , Homelessness , Supportive Housing

Home is a Safe Haven that Leads to Opportunity

18 November 2016

Andrea Meluzzi, U.S. Army Veteran

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I have found myself with a lot to be thankful for, like the roof over my head, food in my refrigerator, my two cats and my job. I work for The Home Depot and I’m part of Team Depot, employees that volunteer to improve the homes and lives of Veterans and their families. The Home Depot really works with me so that I can be a successful employee. I also volunteer with the VA, where I recently helped to build a gazebo so that there was a place for people in my community to come together. Life is good.

But life wasn’t always like this for me. I didn’t always have a stable job or the capacity to give back.

In my youth, I was in and out of foster care and group homes, sometimes staying temporarily with a parent or sibling but never able to stay for long because all of them were dealing with their own struggles. As I aged out of the system, I worked hard to simply survive. Sometimes I’d sleep in the back room of the place where I worked, or on the rain-soaked sofa of an abandoned apartment building. I’d often hear the scurrying of rats as I tried to sleep.

I always worked hard, mostly in retail stores, and I spent a year in college but couldn’t make it work with my unstable living situation. I had basically been homeless for most of my life. The only solution I saw was to enlist in the military, where there would be three meals a day, shelter, clothing, training and an opportunity to travel, and most of all, some stability.

In the Army, I was stationed in Germany and later deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. During my service, I was injured and had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I couldn’t speak as I had before, and I suffered from PTSD. After an overwhelming experience signing paperwork and undergoing tests, I was given an honorable medical discharge, put on a plane and returned to Connecticut, with no real plan for what to do next.

This was no smooth transition, as homelessness became a way of life once again. But eventually I was connected to the VA and was paired with a counselor, provided with healthcare and a section 8 HUD-VASH voucher for supportive housing. I am very glad that there were people to help me in my time of need; without them, I wouldn’t be right here, right now.

The reason I am sharing my story with you is because without the collaborative, statewide efforts that the Partnership for Strong Communities leads along with many incredible partners to end homelessness in our state, I don’t know if I would have survived coming back.

Join me this #GivingTuesday, November 29th, in supporting the Partnership for Strong Communities and Reaching Home, the campaign to prevent and end homelessness in Connecticut. You can help me change lives in our communities and make sure that everyone, Veteran or not, has a safe place to live. It really does make a difference in someone’s life. It has made a difference in mine.

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