Peace and quiet in a safe space. That’s what Tom Morris was looking for when he moved into Freedom’s Path Vancouver just about a year ago.
As the primary caregiver for his elderly mother, Morris had been living in her home a little less than a mile from the VA campus. But several family members with substance abuse issues were in and out of the house, creating a disturbing, unsafe environment. When his adult daughter died of a drug overdose at the house, he put in an application for what would become Freedom’s Path Vancouver, a property specifically for Veterans.
Morris was 19 years old, working on a dairy farm, when he was drafted in 1968. He did his basic training in California and was about to be shipped out to Vietnam when his younger brother was killed in the line of duty. Instead of heading oversees, he was sent home for his brother’s funeral and then stationed in Germany. He re-enlisted after becoming a Sergeant.
After four and a half years in the Army, Morris went back to farming and ended up planting trees in the mountains of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Washington, and California. He loved the job, but it was hard on his body. In his early 30s, he started doing home construction and remodeling for a general contractor who taught him from the ground up, something he’s now shared with his son, who continues in the same line of work.
At 65, Morris had a heart attack and fell off the roof he was working on. After another injury, the doctor told him he couldn’t go back to work. He’s retired but he doesn’t like “just sitting around.” Morris still heads to his 86-year-old mother’s house every morning to help her with her medication and take care of the bills. He enjoys cooking and likes to make one of her favorite meals—homemade chili. On the weekends, he travels to see his grandchildren. He has seven and is about to become a great grandfather.
Even with his military pension, he still struggles to make ends meet. A grocery stipend from the Clark County Veterans Assistance helps cover his food costs, and over the years, he has learned how to cook on a budget.
But he doesn’t have to worry about where he sleeps at night. At Freedom’s Path Vancouver, Morris has the safe environment he was looking for. He mostly keeps to himself, but he likes talking with his VA caseworker and living with other Veterans. “They’ve been in the same place I’ve been, so they pretty much know what it’s like.”