Joseph never expected he would need to use skills learned as a Marine to get through a period of homelessness after he returned to civilian life. But his ability to troubleshoot a problem and adapt to challenging situations served him well during the time he had no place to call home.
Joseph enlisted at age 18 and was deployed to both Southeast Asia and Afghanistan. When he left the service, the G.I. Bill paid his living expenses while earning an Environmental Studies degree at San Jose State University.
After graduation, he accepted a seasonal job for the California State Parks. He loved working in the outdoors but the salary didn’t come close to paying for high priced housing in Silicon Valley. During the next 18 months, his living situation was tenuous, renting rooms month to month and eventually living in his car.
“I used the same logic to being homeless as planning for a long road trip,” he said. “I had to figure out where to park overnight where you won’t be hassled, where to find WiFi, get cleaned up, do laundry. The military teaches how to take a bad situation and make it normal.”
He also used this methodical approach to his housing situation, first taking advantage of the veterans program at Goodwill Services, then learning every detail of the process at the Veterans Administration to get approved for a HUD housing voucher. After locating a landlord with a vacancy, the last step to seal the deal was coming up with money for the security deposit.
“It would have been pretty dang impossible for me if I hadn’t had a Housing Trust Silicon Valley Finally Home grant,” he said. “There is no extra money to save when you are earning seasonal pay.” With stable housing, Joseph can now focus entirely on his ultimate career goal of becoming a full-time park ranger.
As he participated in the housing assistance programs for veterans, Joseph had the opportunity to meet other veterans and hear their stories. “Most were older than I was, and not really the people you would expect to be homeless,” he said, “but it can happen to anyone. One bad break can really mess things up.”