Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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December 7, 2011

A Veteran's Path From Homelessness to Hope

By Eric Larson

Timothy Burford served in the U.S. Army for several years as a Humvee mechanic and eventually found himself deployed to the Iraq War. After suffering a life-threatening episode of heat exhaustion, he received an honorable medical discharge.

The father of two young children, Tim was unable to find a job related to his military work experience. He bounced from one dead-end civilian job to another. Ultimately, in August 2010, he hit a new low: Tim was homeless. As he strapped on his backpack and started a 70-mile hike toward Columbia, S.C., his journey to a new future was just beginning.

Tim spent several nights sleeping under overpasses and in ditches along the highway. His first stop in Columbia was the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Social workers there referred him to the Alston Wilkes Society Veterans Home which gave him a room and a bed. The next day Tim was referred to Fast Forward, a nonprofit technology training center, where he began training for CompTIA certifications in the information technology (IT) field while holding down a part-time grocery store job.

Thanks in large part to training and certification fees paid for by Creating IT Futures, Burford was able to improve his skills and his resume, resulting in the City of Columbia hiring him full-time to work in its court system, which was undergoing an IT systems upgrade and needed someone with basic IT knowledge.

By May 2011, Burford was paying for his own apartment—and saving for retirement. “Everything’s a stepping stone for something bigger,” says Burford.