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Loomis veteran has new hope after avoiding homelessness

Too many choices after returning to civilian life, Patrick says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A Loomis veteran is ecstatic to have a new place after thinking he would be homeless by this weekend. Raymond Patrick, 56, said he hopes his story will inspire other local community members to offer help to those in need. Patrick, who was born and raised in Auburn, said he served as a combat engineer in the Army from 1979 to 1985. After he discharged out of Fort Campbell, Ky. he bought a motorcycle, put everything he owned on it and drove back to California. Over the years he had a few jobs and from 1990 to 1996 he worked for Walker Machine Shop in Loomis. He moved up from a part-time worker to a full-time employee in the company’s inspection room. Patrick said whenever the company had to lay off employees, he would always raise his hand and volunteer to leave. He said he had enough money in the bank and then after about a month he would go back to the company again. After that job ended, Patrick said he worked in three other machine shops in the Loomis area. About two or two-and-a-half years ago an aggravated hernia started causing trouble in his work life. “It was happening when I was at the last job, but it wasn’t their fault it happened,” Patrick said. “I was getting sick at the time and it was making me really sick where I missed a lot of work.” Patrick said the company laid him off and he started collecting unemployment, putting in applications at as many local companies as he could. Patrick said he had no success. When his unemployment ran out, he knew it was going to mean a big change. “I figured, ‘This is it, I can’t find a job,’” he said. “‘I’m going to be homeless. I’ll have to sell off everything I own.’ I looked around Auburn. There are not too many places in Auburn where a homeless person can sleep.” Patrick said he was also concerned because he thought he might have to give up his Rottweiler mix, Baby. “The stress was just driving me insane,” he said. “‘I’m going to lose my baby.’ I couldn’t do it. I thought about suicide, and I thought, ‘No, that’s the easy way out, that’s the stupid way out.’” ‘If we all helped…” Patrick’s cousin put an ad in the Journal Classifieds, seeking someone who would give Patrick a place to pitch his tent. When Ophir resident Laura, who declined to give her last name because of her profession, saw the ad she called Patrick and offered for him to live in a trailer on her property in exchange for helping her work on her yard. Laura said she has needed the help since her husband died. “Believe me, this is a win-win for both of us,” she said. “Actions really do speak louder than words. I’m a liberal and I’m not ashamed of it. Liberals understand they are by the grace of God, and if you can’t share it, you don’t deserve to own it.” Laura said she thinks there are probably a lot of people in her situation who might have an empty mobile home on their property and might also need help. “If we all helped each other, we wouldn’t have a homeless problem,” she said. Patrick said he can only describe a small portion of how he felt when he found out about the offer. “Relief, like 100 pounds of weight had been taken off my chest,” he said. “I was ecstatic, I was happy, I was overjoyed, I was bursting.” Reach out for help Donna Arz, founder and executive director of the Forgotten Soldier Program in Auburn, said she thought it was important that Patrick reached out for help. Arz said she has worked with several homeless veterans through the program, and the situation is something most people can relate to. “We have had five, but what is homeless?” Arz said. “How do people define homeless? You and I could be homeless if we don’t have a year’s savings in the bank to pay our rent or our mortgage.” Arz said homeless veterans need a basic support unit to find the help they need, but some people aren’t willing to do that. Patrick said when he has settled in, he plans to explore his VA benefits more and said Laura has said she will help him with the process. Chaplain Terry Morgan, of the Gold Country Chaplaincy, said 75 percent of the veterans at the recent Placer County Veterans Stand Down were homeless. Morgan said the chaplaincy is working with a growing number of homeless veterans. “We are and the rising numbers are from the young ones coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Morgan said. “They say the fastest growing population is our female veterans. I think it’s 5 percent of the homeless veterans are female, but that number is going up very quickly.” ‘It’s overwhelming’ Patrick said after the total structure of the military, veterans are left with almost too many choices of what to do with their lives when they get home. “It’s kind of overwhelming,” he said. “I can see why some soldiers, it seems like it’s overwhelming so they can’t deal with it. And somebody just coming back from combat, combat life is the devil’s playground. You are the devil out there. You are there to kill or be killed. It’s not a nice thing to be. You turn into a completely different person.” Patrick said the military also provides meals, places to sleep, medical services and more to soldiers, which might be more difficult to provide for themselves when they get home. Patrick said for now he is looking forward to getting settled in and straightening out Laura’s yard before seeing what else comes his way. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ---------------------------------------------------- Agencies to assist veterans • Forgotten Soldier Program, (530) 889-2300, forgottensoldierprogram.org • Operation: MOM Placer County, (530) 908-0751, operationmom.org • Gold Country Chaplaincy, (916) 259-1001, goldcountrychaplaincy.com • Veterans’ Services Placer County, (916) 780-3290, placer.ca.gov/Departments/Veteran.aspx • Army OneSource, myarmyonesource.com • Military OneSource, militaryonesource.com