Shortly after leaving the U.S. Marine Corps, Wade and his pregnant wife, a U.S. Air Force veteran, weren’t familiar with the resources available to veterans. Wade had a medical emergency and was unable to work. Soon they came up short on their bills and rent. Not too long after, they were homeless. It wasn’t the first time they found themselves in this situation.
It was winter and Wade was on crutches, but he tried finding a job, finding something to improve his situation, or help for his family every single day. He visited the offices of Veterans Affairs regularly and was turned away. Finally, in December 2013 he received word about Fendall Heights, transitional housing for veterans and their families. The Wade family qualified for a voucher through the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, or VASH, program five years later. During that time, he entered a five-month Dog Tag Bakery fellowship program that taught him how to run a business and work with others, leaving him with a professional certificate in business administration.
“I just took accountability for the situation and said I wasn’t going to be defined by my economic status and went about finding resources to assist with the situation and that would take care of my family,” he said. The programs “renewed and restored the confidence in me to be the leader I always set out to be.”
He continued, “I was working every potential lead I could to better myself—physically, mentally, and spiritually. The last thing was financial.”
Through his VA case manager and programming, Wade began looking at his credit. Utilizing community-based organizations, like Lydia’s House and the Greater Washington Urban League, Wade learned about credit baselines and what steps he could take to improve his score. He took courses on becoming a homeowner.
“It was a totally new educational experience to become credit worthy in life,” Wade said. “I went to work on what needed to be done to improve my score.”
But it was an encounter with one of the community-based organizations employees who helped him gain the vision to think of the reality of becoming a homeowner. Instead of waiting for opportunities to be presented to him, Wade decided to act like a homeowner and started to look at what needed to happen to make a purchase happen. He looked at mortgage calculations, the amount of money he needed to earn to support that mortgage and live in the District comfortably.
Then he learned that the District of Columbia Housing Authority had a program where he could use his VASH voucher towards his mortgage and would assist him with the purchase of a home. He met DCHA Homeownership Coordinator Alice Revel, who introduced him to the realtor, mortgage lender, and other individuals who could help him to the finish line.
But then he ran into a problem with his credit. There was a fraudulent charge.
“Because of the issue with the creditor, I almost quit,” he said. “I did everything I was supposed to be doing. I paid my bills on time. I reported any errors. It was Alice who said, ‘You are too close to quit.’”
Revel made a few calls and expedited the process, helping to secure the grant from HPAP which allowed Wade to complete the purchase. He is now a homeowner in Deanwood, in the same Burrville community he grew up in years ago.
Wade, who is pursuing his undergraduate degree, recently spoke to veterans of the District, Maryland, and Virginia at DCHA’s eighth annual Veterans Appreciation Event.
“You have to believe you are better than the circumstances you are in,” he said to the crowd. “If I can overcome it, so can you, but you have to be willing to put the work in…to make it a reality.”
Now Wade works to restore dignity to veterans returning to civilian life as the director of operations at the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs. He uses every opportunity to speak and motivate others. He tells them about the programs and services that are available and being developed to help veterans have an equitable chance at their transition.
As for the future, Wade has plans to start his own janitorial business to employ other veterans and members of the community who have fallen on hard times. He wants to be an example to his five children so they can step into the entrepreneurial process successfully on their own.
Wade said, “That is the first business. We will take it from there.”