Managing cancer is a full time job. It takes over your life, and as hard as it is to beat the odds, it’s near impossible when experiencing homelessness. But Victor Hauser is battling his disease one day at a time, and he now looks forward with hope thanks to the support of Caritas of Austin’s Veterans program.
Despite reaching a major milestone last August of a “functional zero” for veteran homelessness in Austin, the work is not done and there are still veterans who find themselves in a housing crisis. Caritas of Austin is more committed than ever to ensuring no veteran remains unhoused for long now that an effective community-wide system is in place.
A military veteran of the Strategic Air Command (1973-1979), Victor’s life was upended on Thanksgiving Day 2015 when his roommate passed away from a heart attack. He could no longer pay both shares of the rent, which triggered a move from Dallas to Austin that soon brought him to a local shelter.
“When you’re homeless, it infects you,” says Victor. “It isn’t fear; it’s hopelessness that there doesn’t seem to be a future.”
After a few weeks, Victor found a security job at JW Marriott and temporary veteran housing with Green Doors. When a sore throat turned debilitating, he could no longer make it to work. Soon after losing his job, his temporary housing came to an end, which is when he found out about Caritas of Austin’s veteran support.
“If it hadn’t been for Caritas, I would’ve been back in the homeless shelter and I would not have gotten my diagnosis and treatment for cancer in time. So without Caritas of Austin, I would probably be dead,” says Victor.
Through the help of the Caritas of Austin team, whom Victor describes as having a relentless “warrior mentality” towards helping others, he found a new home at a co-op in the Crestview neighborhood. The room came with a “welcome home” package of pillows, sheets, towels, and kitchen utensils, thanks to community donors, and the Caritas Pantry helped put food on the table for Victor.
It was shortly after moving that he received the diagnosis of Stage 4 throat cancer and began a regimen of chemotherapy, treatment he wouldn’t have been able to maintain without transportation help from Caritas of Austin volunteers. For now the cancer is under control, but it could easily return.
“I’ve just come to the conclusion that I’m going to do the very best I can with what I have,” says Victor.
Like cancer, homelessness leaves scars that don’t heal quickly. Even after transitioning into permanent housing, it’s hard to escape from the devastation and hopelessness of life on the streets. For a veteran like Victor who arrived in Austin with only his Air Force duffel bag, owning some simple domestic items goes a long way towards creating a feeling of home. And co-op housing offered a built-in supportive social circle that starkly contrasted the survival that went along with homelessness. Only after six months does he finally feel the sense of security that most Austinites take for granted.
“Caritas is something worth continuing, growing, and nurturing. For all of you listening, please help Caritas, because it’s helping all of us.”
Thank you for your continued support of Caritas of Austin’s work with veterans and hundreds of others as we work to restore stability, build holistic wellbeing, and help people reach their full potential.