Stories: Jim’s service in the armed forces seemed but a distant memory as homeless life on the streets was compounded with medical issues

This story comes courtesy of Jolie Jeter with Alpha Omega Veterans Services. Names and pictures have been changed to protect privacy.

Jim was a veteran, having served in our nation’s armed forces in his younger years. Now at the age of 51, the body which had served him so well as an enlisted man had become frail and weak – a reflection of the turns his life had experienced, as he was also now addicted to drugs, living on the streets and homeless.

Jim's days as a member of our nation's armed forces seemed far behind him as he was living on the streets with a large number of medical issues, including increasing blindness.

Jim might have died alone on the streets if not for a trip to an in-patient medical clinic for depression and vision loss. That meeting connected him with one of United Way’s network agencies specializing in helping veterans from our nation’s armed forces who are struggling with homelessness, Alpha Omega Veterans Services.

“Jim had a wide array of medical issues in addition to his vision problems” says the agency counselor. “He had contracted diabetes, was suffering from chronic kidney disease and high blood pressure, and he had substance abuse issues with alcohol and cocaine.”

Jim wished to enter a rehabilitation center for blindness located outside of his state. The waiting list for that center was quite long, and his other medical problems had to be addressed first, before he would be put on the list.

Jim was admitted to Alpha Omega’s agency home and his health began to improve. With proper supervision, he was taking his medications in the proper doses and at the right hours. He also received treatment for addiction issues. In time, we was able to participate in the administration of medications using properly-labeled medicine boxes. He began using eye drops and insulin to check his blood sugar and better control his struggle with diabetes. He also began dialysis for his chronic kidney disease.

Your Support Impacts Lives“In short time, Jim’s blood sugar, blood pressure, electrolytes and protein levels came under greater control,” the counselor said. “These changes contributed to Jim becoming medically stable, which enabled him to be placed on the waiting list for admission to the blind rehabilitation facility.” Jim made further strides to reach his personal goals within his individualized treatment plan.

“Jim is very independent and resourceful in reaching all of his personal goals,” the counselor added. “Despite his blindness and with no formal training, he has familiarized himself with his surroundings and is able to move around inside and outside the facility with little or no assistance.”

Notably, Jim has also acquired the techniques to determine colors of shirts, amounts of money and determining the differences between medications and dosage amounts. Since getting involved with the program, he has improved his ability to live independently and was recently awarded a service-connected pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs for his diabetes.

Thanks to your support of United Way’s network of care, veterans who have fallen through the cracks of society are given another chance to live independently, in the nation they served with honor as members of our armed forces.

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