One year ago, Quinn, age 56, was living underneath the Market Street Bridge in Shreveport, Louisiana.
As a homeless Veteran, he was uncomfortable letting others know about his situation. “I was telling people that I stayed at the Hilton and they would be in disbelief,” Quinn shares. “Yet, it is true because I stayed at the Hilton, not IN the Hilton.”
Quinn grew up in a rural Northeast Louisiana town working on his parent’s farm before they moved the family to Monroe, LA. His father instilled a very tough work ethic in all of his children, including Quinn. Consequently, he can always remember working and never having a lack of money. Money led to buying drugs and hanging with the wrong crowd at a very early age in life.
Dropping out of high school, Quinn chose to attend the Job Corp and afterwards, he joined the military at age 17 as a supply specialist for the U.S. National Guard in hopes of finding a new beginning. However, his drug addiction continued to haunt him. After the military, Quinn’s life spiraled out of control and he “made a lot of wrong turns and bad decisions.” At age 24, Quinn was arrested for the first time on a drug-related charge. Later in his life, he stayed sober for a few years and then his addiction was too much to handle. “By using drugs, I can’t really function when I use them, so I couldn’t keep a job.”
In 2015, Quinn inevitably found his way to back to jail and stayed for two months. As part of his parole hearing, the judge ordered him to attend the Volunteers of America North Louisiana’s Veterans Treatment Court.
Veterans Treatment Court, established in February 2015, is a collaborative effort between Volunteers of America North Louisiana, Caddo District Court, Veterans Affairs Office, and State Probation and Parole.
Presiding Judge Craig Marcotte explains the program, “The court provides a means to successfully rehabilitate veterans by diverting them from the traditional criminal justice system and providing them with the tools they need to lead a productive and law-abiding life through treatment, rehabilitative programming, reinforcement and judicial monitoring.”
Quinn explains it, “Veterans Court is tough. You have to go every two weeks,” he said. “You have to stay clean and take a urine test every week. It is hard, because I have been living a lifestyle doing what I want to do, so you naturally want to resist. It is so structured. You have take it slow.”
As Quinn attended court each week, he talked to Judge Marcotte about living under the bridge. “He did not force me to do anything. He just kept saying it is hot out there and you know he was right! Under the bridge, the concrete absorbs heat. So in the winter time, it keeps you warm, but in the summer time it’s hot all night long. Therefore, you constantly have to wipe yourself down with cold water, so you can sleep.”
Finally, after 15 months in Veterans Treatment Court and staying sober, Quinn was ready to make a move.
The VA Homeless Program coordinated the transition.
Veteran Justice Outreach specialist, Joni Crawford, picked Quinn up one day and together, they walked through the front doors of the Volunteers of America North Louisiana’s Veterans Transitional Living Facility for a tour. “The atmosphere felt peaceful, so I wanted to try it. I didn’t have a problem following the rules.”
It did not take long before Quinn settled in to a new normal. He began taking computer classes every week at the Broadmoor library, so he could get online and find jobs. With the help from Chanel, his caseworker, and other community partnerships, he was able to find work, save a portion of his income and six months ago, Quinn moved into his own one-bedroom studio apartment.
Today, Quinn attends Celebration Recovery at two local churches as he continues to overcome his adversities and keep moving forward. “I’m devoting my life to Christ, reading the Word and being consistent in my prayer life.” He is also working fulltime at Hoglands Landscaping. “I always loved helping on the farm growing up, so this job has brought me back to things I really truly love.”
Moving forward, Quinn wants to be patient, humble and take it one day at a time. He is so thankful for all of the love and support. “It’s like a savior. It saved me from my miserable, heartbreaking life. It has completely turned my life around. It brought many helpful people in my life and I’m so grateful.”
His advice to other Veterans who might be going through similar pain and addiction struggles is to, “stop blaming other people and really take responsibility then life will come easy.”
Quinn will graduate from the Veterans Treatment Court program this summer. Since the program began, 7 Veterans have successfully completed the program. Soon, it will be 8 Veterans.