Growing up, Malcom H never felt that he was part of a real family. His parents, who struggled with drug addiction, weren’t able to provide him with much guidance, stability, or attention, and the neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles where he lived with his grandmother was plagued by daily reports of violence, robberies, and shootings.
Seeking a safety net and a sense of community, Malcom joined the notorious Crips as a teenager, which threw him into a world of illegal activities, including drug use and violence. The dangers of life in a gang soon caught up to Malcom when he was shot in the abdomen. While he laid in a lonely hospital room, clinging to life, his gang “family” was nowhere to be found.
Upon his recovery he fulfilled a promise he had made to his grandmother: to change his life and leave the gang. His desire to turn his life around and his continued search for a sense of community led him to join the U.S. Navy.
It was here that Malcom found the family he had been searching for his whole life. He caught on quickly and found himself traveling the world and living the life of a sailor for the next ten years – until Malcom witnessed the death of one of his best friends, killed in a naval training accident. Unable to cope with the untimely death of his friend, Malcom sought solace in drugs and alcohol and sank into substance abuse, which eventually led to his dismissal from the service.
Lonely, depressed, and addicted, Malcom became a recluse, living in homelessness, drifting from place to place in an endless succession of nights sleeping under bridges. After fifteen years of resigning himself to life on the streets, Malcom sank so low he tried to take his own life.
The suicide attempt landed him in the VA hospital, where he was referred to U.S.VETS by a VA social worker. With little hope left, Malcom decided that he had once again reached a turning point, and that it was time to make a change.
He came to U.S.VETS and enrolled in the Social Independent Living Skills (SILS) program, where he once again found a sense of community like the one he had loved being a part of in the Navy. He has gotten sober, found focus, and diligently works on the goals he has set for himself. Malcolm’s sense of connection at U.S.VETS has been a key element in reconnecting Malcolm with his family. His lost his grandmother during his homelessness, however, he feels his grandmother has a heavenly smile of joy in his triumphant journey.
With a renewed sense of hope and optimism, Malcom set his sights on college and a career in social work. His hard work paid off in 2016 when he was accepted into the prestigious Master of Social Work program at CSU-Long Beach. With the support of his U.S.VETS family, Malcom has finally found the place he belongs.
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