TEMPLE, Texas — Underneath the October sun at Whistlestop Park in Temple, the Crowsey family is spending time together, counting their blessings to finally be headed in the right direction.
"I went to Fort Hood and I was there for eight years," Matthew Crowsey said. "I deployed three times to Iraq."
After his deployments, Crowsey said he wanted to see a little bit of the world. He packed his backs and volunteered to go to Korea for two years. He took his wife Sabrina and son Sean with him.
"After I returned from Korea, I went to Georgia and spent time in the reserves," he said. "After that, I didn't know what I really wanted to do."
After talking it over with his family, they packed their bags for Washington State to see if they could settle there and be happy. Crowsey worked as a security guard for a year before he realized that life in the Northwest wasn't going to be a long-term thing.
"Income was okay," Crowsey said, adding that it just wasn't enough to survive.
The Crowseys moved to Kentucky and it was there, Crowsey said, that his health began to slip. It resulted in him being unable to continue working, which left Sabrina as the only breadwinner.
"When I started to notice it, it started to make me a little bit upset," Sabrina said, referring to the beginning stages of Matthew's fight to regain his health.
"I needed to get help," Crowsey said. "I needed the help and that's when we decided that coming home to Texas was the right thing to do."
Matthew said he has family here and they all recommended that he go to the VA to get help for his dwindling health and PTSD.
"I had to get on it and see what was happening and track where my declining health was going to lead to," he said. "I needed to know if PTSD was just going to rule my life or was I going to be able to get it under control."
The Crowseys said his willingness to take the advice of his family and seek out help through the Temple VA led him to the doorstep of Kimberly Aranda with the Salvation Army.
"We'd be sleeping in our car," Crowsey said when asked where his family would be without the Salvation Army.
Two years ago, the Salvation Army of Bell County launched a homeless veterans program in conjunction with the Temple VA's Health Care for Veterans Project in hopes of curbing the veteran homeless population in Central Texas.
"It's a ministry," Aranda said. "We are reaching to people and we're meeting them at their needs. I will just say that this is nobody but God."
The two-year-old program is funded by a federal grant called Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) and has provided rapid re-housing and homeless prevention services to veterans and their families since 2011.
"Reach out and get help. Don't let pride stand in your way," Aranda said when asked what her message is to other homeless veterans that she knows are out there. "We're non-judgmental and have all been there before. It could have been me. My house was in foreclosure and I know that it was God who helped me through it."
Celia Lynn Feller with Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) said in addition to helping reduce homelessness among veterans through street outreach, HCHV programs provide care, treatment and rehabilitative services. She said that also includes case management and therapeutic housing assistance through contracted community providers.
"Our partnership with The Salvation Army of Bell County has been excellent," Feller said. "It's been excellent in assisting our veterans getting to safe, stable and long-term housing."
Aranda said the success she sees is like seeing a family conquer something and find a way out to a better life.
"You may have fallen down but lets get back up again," she said. "The Bible tells us that the righteous falls seven times but gets back up. So, I love to see that get up."
"Don't be afraid," Crowsey said, adding that he needed to get past his own pride and admit that he had a problem. "It feels shameful, it really does, but you're not being shamed. You're actually getting the help you need to progress your life."
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