“I have a lot left to give so I wanted to keep serving.”
In an inspiring interview, we had the privilege of speaking with Alex, a formerly homeless veteran who has defied the odds to become a dedicated Chicago Police Officer. Alex’s journey is a testament to the life-changing impact the Veterans Path to Hope’s programs can have when paired with community support and unwavering determination.
The interview started off with Alex stating, “No one plans to be homeless”. As an Air Force veteran, Alex was no exception and had a plan for his career. When asked about his story, Alex said that he had experiences in the military that he hadn’t anticipated, and as a young airman, he wished he handled them differently. Upon returning to civilian life, he found himself in Chicago with no money, no place to live and an apprehension to communicate his troubles with his family. But Alex knew he had a lot left in the tank in terms of mindset, body, and health and decided to face homelessness as a challenge and not the end of his story.
VPH welcomed Alex at New Horizons Transitional Living Program, VPH’s flagship program located in Hebron, IL housing up to 20 veterans coming from homelessness. Alex spent about 11 months at New Horizons but was promptly employed with our VCAT program. He said that it was a great experience to keep his momentum going and was able to find temporary housing at an affordable rate through VPH’s resources. He credits VPH with providing him other essential resources such as, employment, mental health support, a food pantry, and a strong sense of camaraderie among fellow veterans. Alex wants people to know that “VPH offers a sense of community and embraces vets”.
Alex utilized sessions with his VPH counselor, Jessica Rainosek, and actively sought additional group sessions provided by VPH staff at New Horizons, to learn ways to better handle situations and the experiences from his past through mindfulness, which he puts to use to this day managing and navigating stress.
“I Learned a lot about myself and learned a lot about other people’s situations that put my life into perspective”.
Conversations with older Veteran residents at New Horizons also served as a kind of informal mentorship, which he used to determine the best path for himself moving forward.
In his time living at New Horizons, Alex prepared himself for his next step by staying in shape and taking a business class at local McHenry College while maintaining his full-time employment. While his application process for CPD was underway. Alex credits the encouragement of staff members and the peace and quiet of the surroundings at New Horizons where he spent evenings working out alone, allowed him to focus on his goals. Ultimately, his hard work and determination paid off. Alex was able to save enough money to move back to Chicago where he graduated from the police academy this past January and is proudly serving his community as a Chicago Police Officer. Alex recalled finding his place among other recruits while at the academy, filling in as a “big brother” role. His instilled discipline and resilience from the military compelled him to encourage and motivate the younger recruits to remain focused.
Today, Alex serves his community with pride and dedication, and has some pieces of advice for those in similar situations.
- Programs need to be accessible, and people need to know there are lifelines available (like VPH). Alex thought he was going to be on his own but VPH offered unconditional support regardless of the circumstances.
- Everyone deserves a second chance.
- Do not let negativity get in the way of seeing the potential and opportunities in a situation.
Alex’s story is a reminder of the strength within each individual and the impact that support and guidance can have in turning lives around. Alex has a lot left to give and wanted to continue serving. As a Chicago Police Officer, he is demonstrating that hope and resilience can conquer even the most challenging circumstances.