I am an Orange County resident who is very fortunate to have a supportive family and a great career. I served eight years and four deployments in the U.S. Marine Corps. I was able to escape homelessness in my youth and had challenges as a military veteran, but I was able to persevere.
Early on in my life, my parents suffered from drug addiction and it negatively impacted my childhood. I would spend as much time as possible with my grandfather to ease the impacts from my parents’ drug use. My grandfather was an inspiration and a role model to me, having been an aeronautical engineer for NASA. He passed away on my 14th birthday. Without any other support, we all became homeless. At many times in my youth, I had to carry on by myself going from motel to motel and couch surfing. I would get so hungry, and had to sustain myself on ketchup and hot sauce packets. My escape from all of this was being focused on my education and by persevering, I achieved a 4.35 GPA. When I graduated, I had limited options and decided to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.
The U.S. Marine Corps was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. The experience in the Marine Corps reinforced my drive to succeed, provided a sense of structure, and gave me a family that I never had. As much as I have benefited from my military experience, I also had some challenges, as many veterans do when they return home.
Active duty military and civilians organize projects like Operation Stand Down to help homeless veterans.
There was a significant disconnect in transitioning between military and civilian life. For example, my first deployment was to Somalia and I witnessed several events that aged my soul. Much of our training and combat experience required hyperalertness, which can be difficult when you reintegrate to civilian life because you often take that hypervigilance with you as a veteran. Upon completing service, you can get discharged in a different part of the country, the neither you don’t have enough money to get home or don’t want to go home because you’re still processing through your experiences. In the 1990s, you only received a two-hour orientation video to reintegrate back into civilian life. Moreover, there are very few people who can relate, which can lead to feelings of isolation. There are many factors that affect the health of veterans, which make them very susceptible to homelessness.
I was experienced enough from my struggles as a young person to address my challenges head-on and seek help. Nonetheless, I still continue to manage my depression. It’s a tragedy that we still don’t have the robust support system that is needed to help veterans and prevent them from entering into homelessness. A conservative count found that there are over 357 veterans are experiencing homelessness on the streets of Orange County. How do we help them?
In Los Angeles, there is a plan to build 1,200 units of permanent supportive housing on the Westwood Veterans Affairs Campus.
One of the main strategies to address homelessness is permanent supportive housing for veterans, which would provide community-based health care, treatment, and employment services. Knowing that there is someone there who knows exactly how I feel has helped me overcome my depression. With supportive housing for veterans, we can thoughtfully help veterans come back home - a home they risked their lives to protect. Contact HomeAid Orange County on opportunities to support permanent supportive housing.
Tyson McGuire is former Marine and an Orange County residents who is happily married with three children. He has built a successful career in architecture and is currently a Senior Project Manager at JZMK. His most recent project was the development of the Cherry Street Residence, which is operated by Precious Life to assist pregnant women experiencing homelessness.