Dan builds therapeutic garden at the vets' house that healed him

newfound stability reawakened his giving spirit

When Dan arrived at our Rest & Recoup House for homeless veterans, he was missing most of his teeth, didn’t have any identification and was generally in bad health. Not surprising, considering he had been homeless for nearly fifteen years—riding his bike across the country and surviving one day at a time for as long as he could remember.

But all that changed in a few short months. At the R & R House, Dan put his life back together. He found steady income, got healthy, even got new dentures and identification. It wasn’t long before he realized he could help the other veterans in the house as well.

“He really embraced being part of a community in the house,” says Dan’s case manager Jon Carollo. “He is always helping clean and make repairs around the house—he even helped put in a therapeutic garden out back. He’s a real giver.”

Dan’s giving spirit quickly spread beyond the walls of the R & R House. He had noticed other veterans in the house often lacked reliable transportation. So he offered his expert bike repair skills to benefit any of Volunteers of America’s programs.

“For someone who is homeless, having a bicycle is critical,” says Dan. “When you can go grocery shopping or get to the doctor on your own—especially if you can’t afford a vehicle or bus ticket—it frees you up.”

Fortunately, we had just received a donation of 20 bikes from the Tyler Boys Ranch. Dan went straight to work in the garage at the R & R House—giving each bike his careful attention and each recipient a shining new chance at independence.

The bikes were distributed to homeless youth at Crosswalk, formerly homeless young men at Flaherty House and veterans at both the R & R House and the Eagles’ Rest, our other veterans’ home.

What’s next for Dan? Not only is he about to move into his own apartment, he is working with the staff at Crosswalk to start teaching bicycle repair classes at the shelter.

“Dan is transformed,” says Carollo. “He isn’t just stable. He’s flourishing.”