Veterans across the country were recognized for their service this week. But one Bethesda veteran received a special honor—a home of his own, following decades of life on the streets.
Calvin Walker, 72, moved into his new apartment in Washington, DC, in late October, with the help of homeless advocacy groups Bethesda Cares and Pathways to Housing.
“I have files on Calvin dating back to 1996,” said John Mendez, Bethesda Cares outreach specialist. “We suspect he’d become homeless in the 1980s. This is an individual who was in that cycle of chronic homelessness, out on the streets for a long time."
Bethesda Cares identified Walker, who suffers from heart disease, liver disease and chronic frostbite, as a medically vulnerable homeless person—one who is most at risk of dying on the street. The group to prioritize housing for people in that category.
Walker had been a long-time client of Bethesda Cares, stopping in to use its services and often sleeping near the Bethesda Metro station. In March, The Washington Post captured images of Walker and other homeless people sleeping on the streets of Bethesda.
Bethesda Cares began working with him about a year ago to place him in permanent housing, and Pathways to Housing helped Walker apply for a federal housing voucher set aside for homeless veterans.
“It’s sad to see this 72-year-old guy sleeping in between newspaper bins out there,” Mendez said. “It hits home a bit. Now, it’s all over.”
Finally, after all those decades on the street, Walker received his key.
“When I came to Bethesda Cares Inc. 16 years ago, Calvin was a long-established fixture in the community,” Sue Kirk, Bethesda Cares director, told the 100,000 Homes Campaign. “To see him with the key and the shocked, happy, 'Is this for real?' look on his face is amazing. To say that we are almost as happy as he is would be mild. We’re ecstatic!”
Walker’s church, Bethesda United Methodist, also helped out by putting furnishings in Walker’s new home.
“It really was a community effort to assist Calvin into housing and to get him off the streets,” Mendez said.