Read Rick's Story

“Whatever happened, god did it. Because I couldn’t have done it myself.”

Rick, 67, has a twinkle in his blue eyes, proudly wears his Marine Corps cap, and has grown an impressive white beard that positions him well for a potential job as Santa Claus, he jokes – or for a move to the rural South. Arkansas, to be precise. After 8 years in Buckelew’s Napa Supported Living Program (SLP), Rick was recently able to purchase a 5 bedroom home on a golf course in a small town in Arkansas, close to his grandchildren. When we met for this interview in March 2015, his move was just a couple of weeks away, and he could barely contain his excitement.

With the help of Eric, his Buckelew counselor, Rick managed to navigate the bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration and finally received his benefits retroactively – a payment significant enough to allow him to purchase his own home for the first time in over 20 years.
“Now I have something to leave for my kids and grandkids”, he says with a smile.

Rick, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD after his honorable discharge from the US Marine Corps in 1968, has struggled with mental health problems and alcohol addiction for most of his adult life. He also used to be an accomplished artist. While in the Marine Corps, he worked as a Draftsman/Illustrator, and after his discharge, even when he was homeless and drinking, continued to work as a professional graphic artist, camera man and graphic designer. “I was one of the last photo engravers in the Bay Area”.

Living in a shelter in Napa, Rick eventually connected with Napa County mental health staff Anna Woods, who referred him to Buckelew Programs for supported housing. “Without Buckelew, I’d be on skid row”, Rick says. “Eric started to help me with taking care of myself, things like medical appointments, shopping, and applying for benefits. Because of my agoraphobia, I couldn’t do these things by myself before.” “Eric is very committed. Because of him, I didn’t give up. Buckelew is the only thing that has remained stable in my life in times of turmoil.”

Over the last 8 years, Rick was able to learn the coping skills he needed in order to live with his mental illness. He has also been clean and sober for 20 years. Rick recently reconnected with his family, including his grandchildren in Arkansas. The prospect of living near them, in a home of his own, is a dream-come-true. And there’s even going to be an art studio in his house. Rick is eager to dive back into his creative pursuits: “Until recently, my life was between my bed, my chair and my TV. Now I’m getting ready for the next 20 years!”