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Alberto B., a happy, housed Veteran.
The eldest of six children in a family headed by a career Army man, surrounded by positive male role models, and encouraged to secure an education, Alberto B. graduated with a major in political science from UC Berkeley, married his high school sweetheart, and joined the Army. Alberto learned to drive tanks and was stationed in Hawaii. Then, without knowing why, everything he worked for, everything he believed in, and everything he wanted crumbled at his feet, leading him to living on the streets in Los Angeles for the better part of 20 years.
It is not uncommon for symptoms of schizophrenia to appear in the mid-to-late 20s, which is what Alberto experienced. He was discharged from the Army after serving almost three years. He and his wife divorced and she took their two children to Maryland and he headed to California to reconnect with his mother and siblings. His Army training qualified him to drive for Loomis Armored and then for a delivery service. He was seriously injured in a work-related accident. Not long after, he received his mental health diagnosis. The family with whom he had reconnected moved away. He ended up staying on the streets, using drugs and alcohol to numb his pain. Sometimes he would sleep in a tent. Sometimes, he would use part of his disability payment to buy 29 days of the month in an SRO motel downtown. He stayed at shelters. He wanted to get some kind of help. In order to qualify for housing, Alberto was told he needed an ID; to obtain an ID, he needed a birth certificate. He didn’t have one and didn’t know how to get it – he was born on a military base in Panama. Read on…
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