Veteran at Home at New Dorothy Day Residence
Ronnie isn’t one for sitting still. The 82-year-old veteran has been on the move since he left the Navy in 1972. A New York native, he landed in Minnesota purely by chance when a friend mentioned that it was a nice place to live. Before Ronnie was in the Navy, he was in the Army, and before that he was a doting husband to his sick wife, Shirley.
“My wife was everything to me, and I joined the Army for her, for the health benefits,” Ronnie admits. “I’d hoped the benefits would help, but when I finally got discharged, I barely recognized her anymore. She died three months later.”
Ronnie’s seen many highs and lows in his eight decades, but his wife’s death and undiagnosed PTSD sent him spiraling. For a long time, he felt stuck, but then he remembered the words of his grandmother, Louise.
“My grandmother Louise raised me,” Ronnie said. “She taught me that whenever you need help, you pray—so that’s what I do.”
Ronnie has worked in restaurants, first as a dishwasher, then working his way up to chef. While in California, he worked for the local Catholic Charities. He eventually worked as a back-of-the-house chef for New York City’s famed Tavern on the Green. A native of Washington, DC, Ronnie has traveled the country, but Minnesota has been his home for the past few years. He has children and grandchildren here.
While Ronnie’s health conditions no longer allow him to work in a kitchen, he still keeps active by working part time at the Neighborhood House food shelf where he helps others, and himself.
“I stock shelves, deliver food to the residents, and talk to the ladies,” Ronnie said with a sly smile.
Between his Social Security check and his part-time job, Ronnie has income, but not enough to afford market-rate rent. Without a car, it’s important to Ronnie that he lives where there is transportation available. At the new Dorothy Day Residence, Ronnie has a safe and affordable place to call home—and can easily catch a bus.
At Dorothy Day Place, run by Catholic Charities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, he can access meals—much of the food the center provides comes from Second Harvest Heartland—as well as a health clinic and even a veteran’s service center right on-site. It’s a good place to call home, he said.
The newly finished Dorothy Day Place is the second phase of an integrated two-building campus that includes a shelter, permanent homes and dedicated services. Higher Ground Saint Paul, which opened in January 2017, was the first phase.
“It’s a happy thing that everything I’ve wished for has come true,” he said. “I have it good. I don’t have to live on the streets.”
Ronnie admits that he sometimes gets lonely, but he doesn’t let himself get too down.
“When you’re homeless, you feel like you don’t fit in, like you don’t belong anywhere,” he said. “But I’m proud of what I’ve got here.”
We believe no one should go hungry. This Veterans Day, we encourage you to think about your fellow Minnesotans like Ronnie and veterans just like him who might not know where their next meal is coming from.