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Mikel Flowers – A Place to Live, A Second Chance: “I’m Just So Grateful That I Got Help Because I Had Nowhere Else to Turn”

Mikel Flowers life took a downward spiral when he found himself living on the streets after he lost his beloved wife and soulmate of 30 years. The 60-year-old Air Force veteran recalls the struggles while he experienced homelessness: he had to shower with a hose while hiding behind a dumpster and was forced to seek help, something he was not inclined to do.

Fate intervened when Mikel crossed paths with one of our housing navigators who helped him through Supportive Services for Homeless Veteran Families, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and provided in partnership with non-profit organizations like JVS SoCal.

“They helped me find a place, helped me get clothes for a job interview, helped me get job interviews…even helped me get a bus pass,” recounts Mikel.

Thanks to the help he received from his housing navigator, Mikel says he was able to escape the catch-22 of housing insecurity when he received assistance to move into a hotel as a temporary solution. “You can’t get a job without a residence, and you can’t get a residence without a job.”

Now in his own apartment, Mikel revels in the simple joys of life. “When I first got the apartment, I almost cried because I had my own kitchen and somewhere to wash up and sleep safely,” he says. “On the street, you can’t sleep because someone is going to hurt you. I don’t take any of this for granted. In a moment, it can all be gone.”

Five days a week, Mikel commutes an hour and a half from his South L.A. apartment to the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center where he now works as a custodian.

“I’m never late for the job,” Mikel explains. “I make sure I’m there early and work hard no matter what.” He cleans showers, mops floors, takes out trash and handles various other tasks with pride. His commitment stems from knowing he never wants to return to the place he fought so hard to escape. “Every day I say to myself, ‘Remember where you came from.’ I keep moving forward.”

With his life on an upward trajectory now, Mikel aspires to one day help others who find themselves in similar situations. “If I see someone on the street, I always help them out and give them a dollar or two. Being homeless is a multifaceted problem, there are so many issues involved. It’s a hard thing to solve. But I do think there are ways to prevent others from becoming homeless.”

While Mikel looks forward to adding some fun and joy into his life again, for now, he is just grateful for some optimism.  The assistance he received from JVS SoCal was a beacon of hope for Mikel. “I’m just so grateful that I got help because I had nowhere else to turn.”

Are you interested in helping other veterans like Mikel address challenges like housing, transportation, employment and more? Find out how here.