(Pictured above: Alan Bartlett discusses his responsibilities as a new board member with Executive Director, Lorae Ponder.)
Alan Bartlett recalls living in a room with no windows, a stranger in the other bed, and with feelings of desperation. Before finding himself at our Emergency Men’s shelter, he was a volunteer chaplain at the Rappahannock Regional Jail; a family man to his wife and three children; a dedicated worker in the field of Information Technology (IT); and a man with a bachelor’s degree and master’s.
Typically, when people picture a homeless individual, someone with Alan’s background does not come to mind, and yet- he found himself searching for a place to go.
This Marine veteran who served in the Gulf War, was working on his doctorate when he fell on hard times. Trouble with the IRS led to struggles with the legal system, which furthered marital problems, and he eventually lost his job. He and his wife separated, and Alan relied on a savings account, for a year, until there was nothing left. He was unable to find a new job and was unsure about seeking help.
“I felt pretty worthless. Those were some of the worst days of my life.”
Alan explained how deeply it hurts parents, in the shelters, who are faced with the reality that they can no longer provide for their children and partners. “Quite a few people that are homeless were doing well at one time with houses, cars, and families,” he said.
Upon leaving HomeAgain’s shelter last May, Alan was able to secure a place to live and begin working as a night security guard, where he is still employed. He described his motivation in rebuilding a life to be proud of; “Even if no one is watching, you’re going to do this right… It’s not so much the things that happen to you in life, it’s how you handle it.”
Since exiting the program, Alan has written a book entitled Life Event Management where he calls on his experiences to encourage risk management skills and mitigate problems before they worsen. He also leads a course in “Virtual Housing Support” at the Richmond Public Library on Franklin Street. In this class, he engages his IT knowledge to educated the homeless population on the use of Microsoft Cloud and how to utilize a cell phone (without need for a service plan) to keep a calendar of appointments, create daily task lists, and establish an e-mail address, like a home address, so that loved ones and case managers can reach clients connected to the library’s free WiFi.
Among other things, Alan is working to start his own IT company and enjoying his hobbies, of which painting is his favorite. He was quick to express the importance of art and how transformational it can be.
Alan is certainly giving back to the community and that is why he was recently elected to become a member of the HomeAgain Board of Directors. Now, this former client can share his thoughts at the highest level of the organization that helped him find a home, again. As Alan reflects on his life, he explains that perspective is key; “How we feel about ourselves is important. See yourself doing well to move forward.”