October 1 at 3:42pm

Change for the Better

VASD3

Bad news was stacking up for Kyle when he found Veterans Assistance of San Diego.

He was struggling with a bad marriage that ended in divorce, failed attempts to gain custody of his three step-children and an other-than-honorable discharge from the Marine Corps. Kyle was suffering from depression, living in his truck and spending days in coffee shops filling out job applications when he learned about VASD at a Stand Down for homeless veterans event in San Diego.

Accepted first to veterans housing on Aster Street in Escondido, then transferred to Merle’s Place when he demonstrated the need for a more structured setting, Kyle was more or less drifting through life.

“I primarily got into VASD to put a roof over my head and give me just a hair more stability,” he said. “I started falling into a rut where all I did was sit on the computer day in, day out, just playing games to get away from all the stuff disturbing me.”

Kyle did his chores at Merle’s Place, VASD’s transitional housing bunkhouse, and signed up for a bookkeeping class, but was unable to keep up with the material. He filled out the occasional job application, but got discouraged when no offers came in.

Then opportunity knocked. A retired Marine who owned RB Oil Change in Rancho Bernardo contacted the veterans service department looking for an employee. He was seeking an ex-Marine for work as a pit technician.

Veterans services staff members immediately thought of Kyle, who had worked as an aircraft mechanic with the Marines until suffering a traumatic brain injury and several spinal fractures as the result of an off-duty fall from a tree.

“We gave him the information and to his credit, he called immediately,” said Rory Potter, Kyle’s case manager. “He came to me and said he talked to the man and that he was going to work (the next day). Shortly afterward, he was hired full-time.”

Kyle, 28, started at the company in August 2011. By February, when he was often working about 45 hours a week, he had saved enough money to start looking for an apartment. He and his girlfriend found a place offering a special deal on the east end of Escondido and moved there in March, five months before he would have had to move out of Merle’s Place.
“He carefully wrote out a budget so he could pay the deposit and move,” said Potter. “We weren’t really able to help him. He did a careful calculation of costs, he went out and made it happen.”

As a division of Interfaith Community Services, VASD was able to help with a wide range of support services, including food from the food pantry and help navigating the channels of Veterans Administration benefits to help with continuing medical costs for his back and brain injuries, and counseling for depression.

“I still have stuff to work on with myself,” said Kyle. “If it wasn’t for the resources that Interfaith was able to provide, I’d still be without VA health care.”

Things are significantly better now for Kyle. He said he enjoys what he’s doing and is for the most part happy. He’s even referred two other people to VASD and Interfaith.

Potter is pleased with the progress.

“Honestly, there was a sense of relief this worked out for him. He really wasn’t going anywhere,” he said. “I think he’s gaining momentum at that job. He’s at the point where the boss counts on him. … I think he’s going to make it.”