December 28 at 5:01pm

Earl’s road to success

Earl with his truck

Earl Churchill, 52, is enjoying life as a long-haul trucker for Schneider National, teaming with a co-driver on multi-week trips. They pick up trailers at one location and drive them to others.

That’s a much better situation than he had last July, when he was referred to Interfaith Community Services by the Veterans Administration. Churchill, a self-employed carpenter and former Marine rifleman, was struggling to find work because of the weak economy. Basically, he was homeless and jobless, Churchill said, although friends gave him places to stay to keep him off the streets.

“I was sleeping on a couch. I knew I didn’t want to do that. My friends needed privacy,” he said. “A friend suggested I go to the VA for assistance.”

That suggestion led Churchill to Merle’s Place, a transitional housing element of Interfaith’s veterans services program. While living in the shelter for veterans at the ICS Escondido office, Churchill received career advice, life-skills instruction and the chance to use the computer lab, where he got assistance in preparing resumes.

With help from veterans advocate Oscar Cannon, Churchill was accepted into the truck-driver program at California Career School in Oceanside. He excelled in the six-week program, getting good grades and enjoying the work.

“He’s more of a go-getter. He never gave up,” said Cannon. “He was always talking to me about going into this program and what he had to do to get into that program. He has a real positive attitude.”

Churchill received job offers before he completed the trucking program. After careful study, he chose to sign on with Schneider, with whom he started working in April, the same month he left Merle’s Place. His first assignment put him on the road for 24 days. Another 21-day journey followed in mid-June.

“It’s rewarding, and I do like it,” said Churchill, who stays with a friend in Vista when he’s not on the road. He’s looking toward finding his own place once he determines how much he’ll be in the area.

Churchill says the value of the assistance he got at Merle’s Place and through Interfaith was “priceless.”

“I know I’m a hard worker, and I didn’t think I’d be homeless long. Without the program, I wouldn’t have had stability; I wouldn’t have had a roof over my head,” he said. “Without Interfaith and their assistance, I would not be where I am now, which is a lot closer to being stable and having a place of my own.