Joseph Augustine knows what it is like to hit rock bottom.
Traumatized by his stint in the U.S. Navy in the early 1980s — where he said he experienced extreme racism and physical and mental abuse, and was denied the opportunity to attend a financial school because he is Black — the now 61-year-old Richmond resident avoided contacting Veterans Affairs for more than three decades, during which he became homeless and broke.
But finally inspired by his beloved fiancé, who died earlier this year from cancer, he reached out to the VA in Martinez in 2017, initiating assistance that continues to this day. The VA referred him in August 2020 to the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, whose Roads Home program has been supporting veterans and their families since 2011 through Supportive Services for Veteran Families, a VA program BFHP administers.
He is now classified as a disabled veteran and through the VA and the Roads Home project has a social worker and is receiving medical assistance. He’s also gotten the financial benefits he is entitled to.