December 29 at 8:39am

Interfaith shares Recuperative Care Program success story

IMG_6693-300x200As home to one of the largest populations of veterans ranging from the Vietnam era to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Interfaith Community Services provides a wide range specialized services to those living in San Diego County. Through the Recuperative Care Program, Interfaith is able to offer shelter, counseling, and educational services to homeless veterans in North County and lead them on the road to independence and self-sufficiency.

Since beginning the program in 2010, Recuperative Care has supported 200 veterans, with 71% of participants successfully exiting the program by obtaining housing and achieving stability. Earlier this week, Interfaith Community Services was able to sit down with one of its most recent Recuperative Care graduates, Michael, and discuss his experiences and future plans.

Born in Oakland, Michael was raised in a family of 12 children. His father served 30 years in the navy and his family moved around the country constantly. He then joined the service himself, first the Army, then the Navy and was honorable discharged from both branches. The Navy is what originally brought Michael to San Diego in 1986; shortly after he met his wife, they married and had two sons. In 2004, Michael lost his wife, father and sister. Due to these personal losses, Michael found himself struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, as well as compounding medical issues.

While Michael professes his path to Recuperative Care was years in the making, his story with Interfaith began earlier this year while on a trip to Fresno for Father’s Day. While driving back to San Diego, he started having a pain in his side so intense that he couldn’t breathe or move. He went to the emergency room upon returning home and discovered that he had a pulmonary embolism and was lucky to even have made it to the hospital.

Michael’s hospital stay lasted ten days and he was then transferred to the University Care Center where he stayed for nearly a month. During this process, he lost his place to live, and found his future uncertain until his social worker with the Veterans Administrative referred him to Interfaith to continue his recovery. Upon discharge from the University Care Center in July, Michael began his journey with Recuperative Care.

“The first month was difficult,” said Michael. “But after that I realized I had to be there and I had to let these people help me.”

Fiercely independent, Michael did not find the transition into Recuperative Care to be an easy one.   “You have a lot of help in the program,” he said, “but I just wanted to get out there on my own. I had a vision of home in Rhode Island and just wanted to be there.” However, after working with Renee, his Recuperative Care Case Manager, he realized how much help he truly needed. In addition to counseling and group therapy, they worked on his organizational skills and got him on track with taking his medication.

“Renee was never judgmental; no one had ever taken the time to hear my story and she listened,” said Michael. “She was the ear I needed and I am forever grateful for that.”

After 88 days in Recuperative Care, Michael is leaving the program and Southern California. He was excited to let Interfaith know that he is moving to Rhode Island to be closer to his family – including a new granddaughter on the way! Michael is thrilled for the chance to spoil his first grandchild and is already planning the gifts he’ll buy her after he makes the cross-country trip.

“Life is so much better,” he said after his last group session earlier this week. “I have hope.”

For more information on Interfaith’s Recuperative Care Program and how you can help support our County’s homeless veteran population, visit our website at www.interfaithservices.org.