Tracey Staff, a third-generation military Veteran, grew up on U.S. Army bases all over the world. When asked where she is from, she answers, “everywhere and nowhere.” Following in the footsteps of her mother, who served 15 years in the Army, Staff enlisted in the U.S. Air Force before graduating high school.
She served for six years, but after being discharged in 2002, she struggled to find a place for her and her son to call home. She bounced from city to city, spending no more than a couple of years in each location. Finally, she landed in Houston and knew she wanted to stay, but that was easier said than done. Staff found it difficult to secure a job that offered the right combination of income and schedule for her lifestyle. Without steady employment, she and her son found themselves living in low-rate motels and couch-surfing at friends’ houses.
Staff’s path to success started with a referral to Goodwill Industries of Houston, a VA partner in helping Veterans transition from service to civilian life through programs such as Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF). Staff became an active participant in the SSVF and in Goodwill’s programs for female homeless Veterans and Veterans with families, which together offer employment services, referrals to housing, case management, temporary financial assistance, and help with applying for VA benefits and other programs. She met regularly with her Goodwill employment specialist and case manager and found a renewed sense of confidence and determination.
Through SSVF, she got a job in Goodwill’s Veteran Services Office. As a lead client services data specialist, she wears many hats, including office manager and receptionist. Now she is able to not only provide for her family, but also support other local Veterans. Most importantly, Staff was able to secure permanent housing for her and her son.
Even as things were looking up, Staff found herself without reliable transportation to and from work, the grocery store and other errands. As luck would have it, VA had been collaborating with Progressive on its Keys to Progress program, which provides free cars to Veterans in need in certain locations across the country. The Goodwill SSVF coordinator recommended that Staff apply for the program. To her surprise and delight, she was among a handful of Veterans in the Houston area selected on Veterans Day 2015 to receive a refurbished car. She now proudly drives her red Kia Soul to and from work each day.
“Goodwill and SSVF changed my life,” Staff said, “and I will be forever grateful.”
Christina Petrossi has been with Goodwill Industries of Houston in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program for three years. She began her journey assisting homeless Veterans as a case manager and in that short period worked her way up to program manager. Petrossi has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Texas Christian University and a Master of Arts in counseling from San Houston State University. She is proud to serve those who served us first.