Veterans’ support program aids Dover family

DOVER — It’s OK to ask for help.

Accepting assistance changes everything.

Gradually, struggling Army veteran Robert Johnson has figured that out.

For eight months, Mr. Johnson’s family has benefited from people helping people.

That only happened after reaching out to others.

Robert and Linda Johnson are pictured with their son Lee-Barrington inside their Dover home. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Robert and Linda Johnson are pictured with their son Lee-Barrington inside their Dover home. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Sinking quickly toward complete homelessness, Mr. Johnson swallowed his pride and began searching for support services earlier this year.

“I saw myself as a man who should be able to provide for his family, and went into panic mode, which I didn’t want anyone to see,” said Mr. Johnson, who served in Operation Desert Storm.

“Finally I began looking to see what help might be out there.”

Connections Community Support Programs answered the 49-year-old Dover native’s call, facilitating his transition into comfortable housing and optimism for the future.

Living in a family member’s unfinished basement with no plumbing, the Johnsons entered a rapid rehousing process.

Since March, Mr. Johnson, fiancée’ Linda and their two children have settled into a comfortable rental unit in the Village at McKee Branch neighborhood after Connections’ Supportive Services for Veterans Families program came to the rescue.

Case manager Courtney Bossolo-Rivera helped the family find an affordable rental residence, and aided in the typical requirements of establishing utilities and paying security deposits, among other assists.

Tapping into its community partnerships, Connections arranged for donations to furnish the unit from the Home of the Brave in Milford, Two Men and a Truck movers and the Veterans Awareness Center, among others.

Richard, Linda, and Lee-Barrington Johnson are pictured outside their home in the Village at McKee Branch neighborhood in Dover. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Richard, Linda, and Lee-Barrington Johnson are pictured outside their home in the Village at McKee Branch neighborhood in Dover. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

“If we can’t provide something, we reach out to our community parters who will,” said Ms. Bossolo-Rivera, who lived as a homeless veteran for two years.

Since January, Connections has established stable housing for 33 previously homeless veterans in Kent County. With offices in all three counties, the program’s goal is to help at least 200 veterans a year statewide.

The assistance program is funded through a grant by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following his Army service, Mr. Johnson at least has a comfortable place to contemplate a future.

“It allowed me to have a clear head where I can think,” Mr. Johnson said. “I have a solid base from where I can figure things out.”

He hopes to use his Delaware State University Television and Film Production degree to set an example for 8-month-old son Lee-Barrington. He’s currently receiving full disability benefits.

“I’m driven by the thought of showing him how his father works hard every day in his job and has a career,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s what motivates me to keep going, to keep looking for something better.”

And if or when life brings any setbacks or significant stress in the future, Connections is just one call away.

“I like to make sure that each one of our veterans knows that even if they don’t need us they can always call if they do,” Ms. Bossolo-Rivera said. “They have us here if they ever need someone to talk to.”

For assistance or further information, call Support Services for Veteran Families at 984-3380, ext. 1121 in Dover, 332-0913 in Seaford or 250-5868 in Wilmington. More information is available online at connectionscsp.org.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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