Catholic Charities Veteran Services helps veterans and their families who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness find stable housing and provides ongoing case management that includes financial planning, assistance applying for VA benefits, emergency assistance and more.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Air Force Veteran Celebrates Transformation

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Young at heart is just one way to describe MANA (Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force) House’s Veterans Outreach Center coordinator, Chuck Ashby. “I’m 78 going on 17,” says Chuck. “Well, I feel 17 until I get up and walk around.”

Chuck brings compassion, kindness and a joyful spirit to those he meets at the Veterans Outreach Center. He credits that deep understanding of what other are going through to a period in his life many years ago, where he lost everything and became homeless due to a drug addiction. “I have a deep belief in a God that turned my life around.”

Higher Education and Air Force Experience

After graduating from Northern Arizona University, Chuck was drafted into the Air Force during Vietnam. After five years in the Air Force, he went back to school to become a teacher, eventually teaching for two decades throughout Arizona.

Addiction and Recovery

The slippery slope of addiction brought all that to an end. It was more destructive than Chuck would have ever imagined. It robbed him of his family, friends, career and everything of value in his life. After getting sober Chuck sought help from the VA, who directed him to a treatment program.

Chuck prioritized recovery and found a new career helping others. He worked at various recovery programs, eventually meeting Terry Araman, leader of Madison Street Veterans Association (MSVA), that would become MANA House. In 2010, Terry invited Chuck to work at MSVA and lead veterans in drug and alcohol recovery. Even now, all these years later, Chuck still leads a weekly recovery group at MANA House.

Helping Veterans

Over the years, Chuck has walked alongside countless veterans experiencing homelessness and addiction. As the Veterans Outreach Center (VOC) coordinator, he is a friendly face ready to connect veterans to resources, supplies and a real-life example of a life changed.

Celebrating Every Success

When the VOC first opened, it served as a lounge, a place for veterans to get off the street, a place of respite. When the pandemic began, the VOC had to close and come up with a plan to serve veterans while keeping them safe.

“We reopened as a triage for veterans. Before we provided immediate comforts, now we are helping people transform, we focus on long-term solutions and progress. Transformation rather than comfort. People in their comfort zones will stay put, we push them a bit and get them connected to resources.”

This new focus has been revolutionary for veterans. Now, more than ever, veterans are making progress and moving toward stability. “Now, we see veterans who are housed and have jobs coming back to share their success. We celebrate every victory we have. It makes me feel good when we can make a difference,” says Chuck.

Living Life

Chuck is grateful for his life. He is happy to talk about his family, his son, grand kids and the love of his life, Pam. He shares his story, knowing it can help others in difficult situations. “For me to be in the situation I’m in now, considering what I’ve done to myself, my family and the people around me, throwing away something that I loved… getting a second chance is a miracle.” He is adamant that his work with veterans does just as much for him, as it does for those he serves.

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