Darcel Roebuck, a veteran of 20 years in the Army, found a home and a job at Victory Place, a supportive housing campus for formerly homeless vets in Phoenix. Through National Equity Fund and our Bring Them HOMES initiative, we have invested $610 million in equity to create housing for homeless veterans at Victory Place and across the country.
LISC: Tell us about your service in the military.
Darcel Roebuck: I served from 1976 to 1996, when I retired. I was an Army engineer, a drill sergeant, and an AIT (Advanced Individual Training) instructor. Wheeled vehicle mechanic was my secondary. I did quite a few different things while I was in there.
Was there a particular event or part of your service that affected your life?
[Being a] drill sergeant! For some reason, that was the experience that I went through that impacted my life. Even though it was very strenuous duty—seven days a week, from five o’clock in the morning or earlier until 11 o’clock at night—you were with those soldiers, continuously, all the time. You’d have cycle breaks, but then you’re right back in again, to train the soldiers.
You get in a certain mold, and that’s what you become. When I retired, I was still being a drill sergeant. I had to realize that I had to let it go. But it changes you.
How did you end up becoming homeless after your service?
Well, it was relationship issues. I was going through my divorce, and things got really rocky. It seemed like my life started going in a downward spiral, and it caused me to be in a position that I’d never been in before, to the point where I ended up staying with people, where I couldn’t get work. I lost my career—I was a corrections officer after the Army. I lost my house, my vehicle. At the same time, I found I had prostate cancer. It was just so much hitting me all at one time. Then the next thing I know, I’m homeless. Like, ok, how bad can it get?
How did things start to turn around?
I was in a situation where I didn’t know what to do, and it was my sister—she’s ex-military—she said, “Have you ever been to the VA?” I don’t know why I never thought of it. So I went, and they had so many benefits—I never knew I had all those benefits when I got out of the military. I could have probably used some help years ago, like when I was struggling when I first got out. When I went to the VA, that’s when I found out about the different programs that could help me get back on my feet.
I first had to start thinking positive. I was very negative, I was making bad decisions. I was feeling sorry for myself. But instead of returning to alcohol and drugs and all those things, I went to church. When I did that, I started looking at the positive, and then my life started getting more positive. And nothing but positive things have been happening since.
How did you find out about Victory Place?
In 2015, I was living in a transitional home and saw a pamphlet. So I researched it. And that’s how I got here. [Roebuck was the first resident to move into Victory Place Phase IV, the final development of the campus].
What was it like to settle into this community?
I was excited. I had a roof over my head! And then I started getting involved. I was seeing that other people were in the same boat I was in, so I started some little programs to help other vets. [Roebuck is credited for his off-hours work with fellow vets and for being a tremendous source of peer support and motivation.]
And then you started working full time with Victory Place?
I had a lot of skills from my years in the Army—a lot of skills--but I couldn’t benefit from them. Then one of the vets told me there was an opening for a lead maintenance technician [for the campus]. So I came and applied and I’ve been here ever since. It’s been two years now.
What’s your impression of Victory Place, and the organizations that support it?
It’s a good thing to get people off the streets, and they have services for people that need them. It’s good to be a part of this. But we still need more. There are a lot of people out there who are homeless, who have a lot of issues they don’t know how to deal with—drug addictions, alcoholism, mental issues. There are just so many things keeping them in the position that they’re in and they don’t know how to recover from all those things.
What are your priorities these days?
I continue to better myself and to think positive and put my focus where I need it to be. I feel like I’m on track again. You don’t know what the future will bring, but I learned from my past, and it strengthened me.
And I love my job. This is the best job I’ve ever had in my working lifetime. It’s 100 percent because of the staff. We work together, we got each other’s back, we’ve all got a purpose here, and it’s beautiful.