Most would think that a military veteran’s main hurdle when coming back home from service would be something substantial – post-traumatic stress disorder, adjusting back to civilian life, etc. However, something as seemingly small as having a safe place to rest one’s head is a reality many vets face as much as anyone else.
Ryan Baze, a former Marine, has struggled with his situation for the past five years. Although Baze desperately tried to have some semblance of purpose, a bad back kept him from work. “I’m an active person. I like to do things. Not being able to cripples your mind,” he said.
Baze is a quiet man, and speaks with a southern twang. He’s a small-town guy, who seems just as comfortable welcoming a new neighbor as covering a squadmate’s back on the battlefield.
Baze settled into Wenatchee back in late March. He sold nearly everything he had left in order to get here. “I came here with a suitcase and a few dollars in my pocket,” he said.
Going from place to place, park to park, and bench to bench took its toll on Baze. “The hardest thing was my back,” he said. “After a while it just kinda wears on you.”
Physical problems aside, Baze also had to deal with the other ramifications of being someone who was simply down on his luck.
“They [people] see you with all that stuff, so they know you’re homeless. Of course they kind of rear a wide circle when they walk by you. Scared of you, you know. Look down on you,” he said.
Baze even had to worry about his classes. “It was kinda hard to do your homework and carry your books around when you’re homeless,” he said.
Throughout all of this, Baze never really considered seeking help from others. It wasn’t because of pride or anything like that. “I’ve kinda roughed it. I learned to kind of be content,” he said.
Just because he was used to the way he was living didn’t mean he was happy about it. “One day I just decided I didn’t want to live that way anymore,” he said.
Soon after, Baze got in contact with Vets Serving Vets, a local non-profit that provides military veterans with basics such as food, emotional support, job hunting, and even housing.
With the organization’s help, Baze was able to find a house. He moved in on July 3rd.
“It felt great,” he said. “It’s hard to explain. You get your own place. A place to sleep. A place to eat. A place to do your homework.”
Jeric Quiliza was an AmeriCorps volunteer in the Eastmont School District last year. This is his last in a series of profiles of homeless individuals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org