Thurman Dennis, 60, wants to make one thing clear: He never wanted to seek government benefits because of his military service. Yet when the former United States Navy aviation machinist suffered severe bouts of depression, stress and anxiety after a heart attack, while coping with COPD and other health problems, he ended up losing his job and home.
Despite the difficult circumstances, he moved in with a friend and tried to forge ahead. “I just hung in there like I always have,” he says. “I’ve always been a fighter. I just put on a false front and pretended like everything was OK.” Eventually, he did one of the bravest things he has ever faced. He asked for help. “I said, ‘I can’t do this no more,’” Thurman recalls.
In July 2016, Thurman was referred by medical professionals to St. Vincent de Paul’s Ozanam Inn Men’s Homeless Shelter, which operates a program for homeless veterans in partnership with the Veterans Administration.
“This place has been great,” Thurman says. “It’s been like a ray of hope. It’s shown me it’s OK to get help.”Thurman, who had served in the Philippines during the 1980s, was assigned to one of our 20 private rooms for homeless veterans. Here, he connected with a personal case manager who has been working with Thurman to help him get back on his feet as he continues to receive medical treatment through the VA Hospital while living at SVDP.
At SVDP, he has worked with Lonnie Williams, a case manager who formerly headed the VA program before being promoted to the position of program director for Ozanam Inn Men’s Shelter. Replacing Williams is Cassidy Longton, another SVDP employee who previously served as a case manager for SVDP Families. “Mr. Dennis is awesome,” she says, bragging on her client. “He has done so well.”
Thurman Dennis, a widower who later remarried and then divorced, has an adult daughter and a support system of friends. He moved out of the men’s shelter last month after getting his own apartment, having saved up enough money from his full-time job. He proudly works as a groundskeeper for the VA Hospital.
“I’m a proud American,” Thurman says, “and I’m grateful for the help I’ve received.”