S.O. Close to Homeless: Part Nineteen

Grants Pass, Ore. — NBC5 News is partnering with Access to start a community discussion, and bring you an in-depth look into the lives of people who are homeless, have been homeless, or who are very close to it. In week 19,  we’re taking a look at veteran services.

In Grants Pass, the United Community Action Network, or UCAN, serves hundreds of veterans every year, with help from housing to jobs, and other support.

Dominick Lucia has been working at UCAN for the past five years, as the lead case manager of the Supportive Services for Veterans Families program.

“I’m kinda like the vet guy in Grants Pass now,” Lucia said.

Day in and day out, he works mostly with veterans struggling through unimaginable circumstances.

“It’s dangerous to be homeless,” Lucia said. “You get your stuff stolen, you get beat up, people will… some of the homeless people have told me that people try to light them on fire while they’re sleeping at night.”

One client at a time, Lucia helps veterans find safe housing, get jobs and treatment, and sometimes even find them service dogs.

“A lot of them want to work, they want to be housed, they want to be productive members of society,” Lucia said. “It’s hard, when you’re out on the street, where do you start?”

For some clients, that starting point is just a listening ear, or some direction. For others, he works with for months.

“It’s not an easy job, but it’s a very fulfilling job,” Lucia said.

It’s a job he takes very seriously; the issue is close to his heart.

“I’ll say, ‘I understand,’ and they say, ‘well how — you don’t understand, how,'” Lucia said. “And I share a little bit of my experience.”

More than a decade ago, Lucia was homeless for a year and a half.

“We did the best we could, there was a broken down pickup truck with an camper shell on it, in a weed-filled lot in Los Angeles, and we kind of homesteaded it,” Lucia said. “We went out and did little odd jobs, little hustles, to make 5, 10, 15, 20 dollars, and so that’s kind of how we survived.”

Now back on his feet, he helps people work through the same problems. While he’s not a veteran himself, some of his favorite people are.

“My dad was a vet, in between Korea and Viet Nam, he was a tank driver,” Lucia said. “And my great uncles were veterans, they were actually reconnaissance paratroopers at Normandy, and they used to tell me stories when I was a kid.”

Some of those stories are very similar to the stories he hears in his job. But now, his favorite stories are the success ones.

“I have some clients, they just call me up every six months, to say, ‘hello, I’m still doing good,’ and they refer other clients to us,” Lucia said.

For Lucia, his caseload will probably never get lighter. But that isn’t deterring him one bit — he says he’s here to help anyone who needs it.

“There are a couple people, they don’t want to work, and they don’t really want to conform to societies rules, they don’t want to go to the mission and stop smoking cigarettes, and that’s ok you know, as adults, we get to make choices,” Lucia said. “But what we try to do, is anyone who’s not in that category, we’re trying to help them… and even those people, we try to help.”

To learn more about local resources for veterans or anyone struggling with homelessness, click here.

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