A Veteran finds his way home
Marlon Williams, age 60, served his country in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft mechanic based in London, England. After retiring from the military, he stayed abroad for 15 years to work as a self-employed plumber.
Leaving London under duress, Marlon could not afford steep international shipping rates and was forced to leave the tools of his plumbing trade behind.
Soon after arriving home, Marlon found himself unemployed and staying on friends’ couches in his native Detroit.
In 2012, Marlon discovered the Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program (HVRP) at Southwest Solutions’ Centers for Working Families (CWF).
At CWF, Marlon worked with a financial coach to establish a budget and identify goals including finding an apartment, buying a car, and recovering his plumbers’ tools (valued at over $3,000).
Additionally, Marlon's HVRP case manager found him a $1,500 per month government Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) grant enabling him to register for school.
By 2013, he had successfully completed a Heating Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) Licensing and Certification program at Wayne County Community College (WCCC).
At the same time, Marlon's case manager found him temporary rental assistance. This allowed him to begin saving for basic expenses, while simultaneously settling into his own apartment in Lincoln Park.
Marlon's case manager also helped him acquire job interview clothing, transportation assistance and part-time employment at Oakland County Community Mental Health.
Marlon speaks often about the importance of this first job as part of his journey. While the work helped him financially, he derived as much, or more, emotional and social value from his experiences working as a caretaker and mentor of a young man with physical and mental disabilities.
As someone who has led a full and interesting life, Marlon finds value in being able to share his knowledge and experience with others. He talks fondly of his excursions with clients, which both parties benefit from and clearly enjoy.
In 2013, CWF helped Marlon apply for a $1,500 Micro Grant from United Way of Southeastern Michigan. This paid for his plumbing tools to be shipped from the United Kingdom. Marlon now has tools and the necessary licensing and certification to expand his business locally and increase his income.
Even with all this positive momentum, Marlon still needed reliable transportation. He was spending an average of three to four hours a day waiting for and riding the bus. His CWF financial coach helped him apply for a $5,000 loan to purchase a car.
He now drives daily and is paying off his loan well ahead of schedule. With 20 extra hours freed up in his weekly schedule, Marlon can focus on school, studying, expanding his customer base and recreation.
Putting a final piece in place last winter, Marlon worked with his financial coach to
apply for a Twin Account to money and establish a credit score. As he continues to makes on-time payments each month, he is on track to post an above-average credit score this summer.
Marlon talked about his experiences in a video interview with LISC on Veteran’s Day, September 11, 2013.
Marlon said, “I’m truly grateful to the support I’ve received from Southwest Solutions Center for Working Families and United Way of Southeast Michigan. They allowed me to regain possession of my tools and get myself back on track. I’m excited to be back in school and actively working in my profession of choice.”