Hoyt Nelson Chick lived and worked in Fairfax County for over 50 years. Like numerous military veterans, “Chick,” as he is known by many, became homeless after a series of traumatic events. Starting in 2004, he became a well known face at the Embry Rucker Community Shelter (ERCS). For seven years he lived outside in the woods adjacent to the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride lot in a tent in a makeshift camp. He worked part-time jobs and kept in touch with his ex-wife and two children.
He would come to the shelter to have a meal, shower, wash clothes, and receive medical care once or twice a week. The ERCS outreach staff who spent time visiting Chick at his campsite offered opportunities to stay at the shelter, but he resisted. The outreach staff continued to make sure he had what he needed to sustain himself outdoors. Due to increasingly serious health issues he eventually accepted assistance to locate housing. ERCS staff and the Fairfax County Intensive Community Treatment Team of the Community Services Board collaborated to help Chick apply for and receive disability benefits. Chick was also able to secure a housing voucher, which went towards the rental of a one bedroom apartment.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness 2012 Annual Report on the State of Homelessness in America, 67,495 homeless people are veterans like Chick. That is 10.6 percent of the total homeless population in the country. ERCS staff and the Fairfax County Intensive Community Treatment Team continue to work with Chick as he adjusts to his new environment. For the first time in years, he has been able to enjoy a simple pleasure in life, his own mattress. He wants to share his story so other unsheltered homeless people will be encouraged to ask for help.