Michael Washington: Veteran Sees Opportunity To Escape Homelessness In Quad Cities

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Thomas Nelson/IowaWatch

Marine Corps veteran Michael Washington in the living room of an apartment he was able to find in Davenport, Iowa. Photo taken July 20, 2016.

DAVENPORT, Iowa – Depression and anxiety led Michael Washington down a route to homelessness.

“I ended up homeless just because of the way things were, trying to adapt to this environment that environment,” said Washington, 27, a Marine veteran who finally got a job and an apartment in Davenport mid-summer.

He said he still struggles adapting to civilian life, though.

Washington came to Davenport via several other places in the country. He was born in New York City, where he spent the first half of his life. His family moved to Kinston, North Carolina, and from there he joined the Marine Corps in 2007. He became an aircraft electrical systems technician in Cherry Point, North Carolina.

“I thought I was going to be in the Marine Corps a lot longer than I did,” Washington said. But he was not because he suffered from depression and anxiety and left early in a sanctioned discharge in 2011.

After being discharged Washington moved in with his family in Kinston, North Carolina. He stayed there until 2012, when he went to Quincy, Illinois, to find a job. “I picked a random state and it was in this area: the Midwest,” he said.

“I was initially homeless living on the street out in Quincy, Illinois,” Washington said.

Marine Corps veteran Michael Washington in the kitchen of an apartment he was able to find in Davenport. Photo taken July 20, 2016.

Thomas Nelson/IowaWatch

Marine Corps veteran Michael Washington in the kitchen of his Davenport apartment on July 20, 2016.

Washington was lucky because he had an old laptop and was able to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs’ crisis line. From there a VA outreach social worker contacted him and drove him to a shelter in Davenport.

He was able to get a job and an apartment and eventually used the post-9/11 G.I. Bill to attend Scott Community College, which has a campus and education centers in the Quad Cities. But, he said, he dropped out of school to avoid ruining his grades.

“I never finished it because depression’s a thing I fight every day and that basically won for a bit,” Washington said.

“I tried to use it (the G.I. Bill) again recently and then they said I don’t qualify for it,” Washington said, referring to a phone call with the local Veterans Affairs office. “I still don’t understand how that works if I just used it about three years ago.”

Washington said he attended college for about three semesters. He said he was trying to get an associate’s degree in information technologies, for which he has a passion.

“I have no real skills. I’m good at computers but I don’t have a degree for it. So I can’t really get in to do that kind of work.”

Washington decided to quit his job in Davenport and live with his family again in 2014 Kinston, North Carolina. Most of his immediate family is dead and those who remain live in there.

In fall 2015 he got into a car accident. The car was destroyed in a head-on collision. “I was fine for the most part. My knee was banged up, but that was about it,” Washington said.

His anxiety and depression coupled with a lack of transportation frustrated Washington. He said he didn’t want to be a burden to his family so he moved back to Davenport.

He had enough money for an airplane ticket but no car. “I only had two bags and then I went to the shelter,” Washington said.

Being homeless led Washington to a whole range of emotions. He was angry at one point and the next minute was full of sorrow about his situation, then jealous of those around him. “I don’t know how I feel,” he said.

He has a VA housing grant and is working to get back on his feet.

He said he wants to attend community college again next year. “I’ll just work pretty hard enough, save up some cash and then just pay for my semesters out right.”