Homeless Veteran Gets a New Home for the Holidays
Curtis Melton grew up in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. The youngest of four children, Curtis and his siblings were raised by loving parents.
“If it wasn’t for my mom and dad, I wouldn’t know there was a straight path,” Curtis says.
Curtis was especially proud of his mother and her position in the community. She worked as a Community Representative in Wicker Park for the City of Chicago’s Urban Progress Center. Curtis said that her job was to help anyone in the community who needed help. Curtis remembers being a teenager and helping his mother by distributing flyers around the community.
Through his mother’s connections, Curtis got a job as precinct captain for the 32nd Ward when he was just 18. He held that position for 15 years.
In 1991, Curtis enlisted in the United States Army during the Gulf War. After basic training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, Curtis was stationed at Ft. Benning, Georgia where he trained as a paratrooper. Next, Curtis was assigned to Ft. Brag, North Carolina where he worked as a communications specialist and then a maintenance worker.
When Curtis returned from the military in 1994, his life turned upside down. He was divorced after 19 years of marriage. He had seven children but, because of challenges with the divorce, he was unable to see them as often as he wanted. Also, when he returned, he found that all of his belongings had been stolen from where they were being stored.
During this time, Curtis’ mother was experiencing health problems and needed assistance. His father had passed away years before, so Curtis went to live with and care for her. He cared for his mother for years until she finally had to sell her home when she required more concentrated care.
Without permanent employment, Curtis was unable to live on his own. His life began to take a downward turn. He had a difficult time managing his personal challenges. And he became homeless.
“I gave up on life,” Curtis says.
He was looking for a cup of coffee when he first entered Franciscan Outreach’s Marquard Center in the Wicker Park neighborhood. That was in 2009. From that cup of coffee, Curtis learned about the various support services Franciscan Outreach offers. He returned for dinner at the Marquard Center soup kitchen and soon became a regular guest of Franciscan Outreach.
Curtis is one of hundreds of men and women who depend on Franciscan Outreach’s support services each day. He was able to access the onsite mail service to receive his personal mail, phones to make appointments, shower facilities, clothing, transportation assistance, and the only free laundry service for people who are homeless in Chicago.
Curtis met with Franciscan Outreach case managers who helped him address the number of issues he was experiencing. Case managers provided him with access to the appropriate resources so he could get the proper attention he needed.
“I first started seeing case managers to help me with my problems. They helped me to get my life back together. They helped me to get back on a straight path,” Curtis says.
Life is beginning to turn around for Curtis. He has reconnected with his children along with his 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. And, he works as seasonal event staff for Monterrey Security.
When asked about his goals, Curtis says, “My goals are to get a decent paying job and to get my own home so my grandchildren and I can hang out together.”
Curtis has been working with a Franciscan Outreach case manager to help him identify housing opportunities available to him as a veteran. His case manager helped Curtis apply for a VA housing voucher. They went together to look at potential properties to see if Curtis met the qualifications.
“My case manager connected me with VA housing opportunities that I didn’t know about,” Curtis exclaims.
Curtis was notified that he qualifies for a beautiful apartment in the Wicker Park neighborhood, where he grew up. He’s working on the paperwork now and expects to be able to move into his new home over the holidays.
“I feel blessed,” Curtis says.