Formerly homeless Veteran James Mobley (left) works full-time at the same VA domiciliary in Dublin, Ga., where he spent nearly a year in recovery. (Photo/Greg Swars, Dublin VA)
Not too many homeless Veterans have masters’ degrees in theology and public administration. But then again, 53-year-old James Mobley isn’t your average guy.
“The last time I was in prison, I decided to get a master in theology because my spirit was broken,” he explained. “I studied theology because I wanted to heal my spirit.”
Mobley appears to be the kind of guy whose spirit shines brilliantly for a time but then, like a meteor streaking through the night sky, dissolves abruptly into darkness. “I’ve spent a total of 16 years in prison,” he said. “It’s kind of been up and down for me.”
In between three different stints in prison, all of them in New York, Mobley was busy furthering his education and holding good jobs in the social services field, primarily helping people struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.
“I liked being a counselor,” he said. “I like helping people. Up in New York, I was employed with a place that helped runaways. I was working with kids who were 14 to 21-years-old. I became a father figure to a lot of them. I started there as a case manager, then worked my way up to supervisor.”
“After three years on that job I relapsed and started drinking again,” he said. “I ended up back in jail.”
“My wife, who was down in Georgia, kept telling me to come down there,” he said. “She said it would change my life. So three years ago I moved to Georgia. I got a job at the transition house, working with homeless Veterans. I worked there for two years, but then I started drinking heavily again. I got a DUI.”
But this time around, Mobley somehow avoided jail time. Desperate and homeless, he found his way to the VA medical center in Dublin, Georgia.
“They put me in their homeless program at the domiciliary,” he said. “When I first got there I was reluctant to stay. And if it wasn’t for my social worker, Kimberly, I probably would have left. She was the person who kept me there.”
A Little Hope
“James did all the work; he worked hard at staying here,” said Kimberly Kralicky. “All I did was offer him support and hope.”
“When he first arrived here I could see he had potential,” said Dawn Kentish, domiciliary chief at the Dublin VA. “He was sort of all over the place at first…there were so many things that needed to be addressed.”
With the help of Kralicky, Kentish and others like them, a down-and-out Mobley dug deep and found the strength to stick with his treatment program. “When he hit 30 days of sobriety, he was so happy,” Kentish said. “And we were happy for him. We celebrated that achievement with him.”
“I spent nine months in the homeless program here,” Mobley said. “That’s where I learned I was suffering from PTSD, and that my PTSD had a lot to do with my depression. I never knew that before.”
Full Time Social Worker
As part of his recovery process, Mobley began doing some volunteer work at the hospital. In addition to his volunteer work, he’s now employed full-time as a social services aide at the same domiciliary where he spent nearly a year in recovery.
“I have a wonderful team around me,” he added, “and I listen to them. They helped me help myself. These are the people I can go to. I can talk to all of them and not feel judged.”
Perhaps the person who’s been on Mobley’s team the longest is his wife, Cherrietta. Despite the bumpy rollercoaster ride, the two are now together again, recently reunited. “We’ve been together 35 years,” Mobley said. “We grew up together in New York. She stuck with me through all of it. That’s my tough cookie.”
“Yeah, I’m a tough cookie,” Cherrietta said. “I stuck with him. I’ve known him forever, so underneath, I know he’s a real good man. He just needed somebody to love him, someone to tell him everything’s gonna be alright.”
To learn more about VA’s efforts to end Veteran homelessness, visit www.va.gov/homeless
For more information on how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit www.ptsd.va.gov
This article was originally posted on VHA’s website.
Tom Cramer is a former newspaper reporter who now works as a feature writer for VHA’s Office of Communications in Washington, DC. He lives in Columbia, Maryland with his wife Eileen.