Homeless couple finds their path home

Published 12:04 am Sunday, September 4, 2022

By Kris Mueller
For Rowan Helping Ministries

SALISBURY — Randy Jones realized he had hit rock bottom in his life while sleeping in his car in March with his 64-year-old wife, Gail.

He was “helpless, homeless and hurting,” he said. “I cried all night, thinking — how did I get here?”

That answer spans more than 30 years, Randy and Gail explained recently while sitting on the steps outside the Rowan Helping Ministries shelter. They cried together and smiled through their tears as they told how God brought them to Rowan Helping Ministries and helped them change their lives.

A decorated combat veteran, Randy served for eight months in the 1990’s Persian Gulf War, experiencing his first combat action there with the Army’s rapid deployment ground forces. Not long after returning home, Randy left the military. Unfortunately, the war had followed him home.

“Nightmares began torturing me at night,” Randy recalled. “I started feeling afraid and isolated. I didn’t have my buddies and tank behind me. I began having dreams — still do today — of the enemy coming out of nowhere. In the dream, I don’t have a weapon, they are armed and I am running for my life. Sometimes I cannot wake up, and I am trapped in that dream and it just keeps reoccurring. There is no cure for it — your mind has recorded all these horrific scenes and plays them back in different versions.”

Randy turned to alcohol and drugs to help make the dreams stop. He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, but continued to live a double life, working successfully in the restaurant industry as he hid his problems and continued to self-medicate.

“I worked two jobs to make ends meet for almost 10 straight years,” he said. “As time went on, I moved from nice homes to finally any place I could find. My credit started to suffer… because I just got in over my head with debt, and it really started to break me down mentally.”

Over time, Gail followed him in his downward spiral, also using alcohol and drugs to soften her pain as their lives deteriorated. With each move, their housing became more substandard, while rent payments increased. Their last home was the worst, and the landlord refused to fix anything. The pandemic had arrived, and the first eviction moratorium was in place.

“We had mold and nasty carpet because a busted water pipe behind the walls was leaking out,” Randy said. “Bed bugs had become a problem and then the septic tank began to overflow into the house. It was just a horrible situation.”

The landlord, who had already raised the rent several times, did so again. Randy refused to pay, and they argued. While the moratorium was lifted for two days, the landlord evicted them.

They were living in their car when Randy surrendered his life to God. “I told Him, ‘If you help me, I will never live that life again,’” he said.

The next day, they sought help from the Salisbury VA Medical Center, which sent them to Rowan Helping Ministries to enter the VA Grant Per Diem Program. A partnership between the Salisbury VA and Rowan Helping Ministries, this program provides shelter and intensive services to homeless veterans.

“I had never been homeless,” Randy said. “That was the hard thing — seeing my wife in the shelter. I let her down tremendously. But overnight, we quit everything — the alcohol and the drugs.”

“It’s like the Lord just touched our hearts,” Gail said. “I slept good that night, and I am still sleeping good.”

Working with Rowan Helping Ministries’ Housing Program, Randy and Gail qualified for rent and utility assistance and found a one bedroom apartment but had a bad credit rating. After writing a letter to the landlord explaining their situation, they were approved for the apartment. Both are now working again.

“I want to thank Rowan Helping Ministries because, without them, I don’t know what we would have done,” Gail said. “They put us on the road to recovery. The staff is so positive here — you see a lot of sunshine here.“

“The greatest thing was when we got our keys,” Randy said. “We unlocked the door for the first time ourselves. Solomon and Amanda (Rowan Helping Ministries staff) were there and we took pictures. We are going to make this thing work. We made a promise to God that we would do His will. We are going to praise Him in our lives so his light will shine through us.”