When Randy was a young boy in Council Bluffs, he grew up in a home without any positive role models. His mother walked out on their family when he was nine years old, and his father was rarely home. As the oldest of four children, he took it upon himself to be the adult because he knew his siblings relied on him. Eventually, Randy grew weary of carrying this responsibility and rushed off to join the Navy at the age of 18, eager to start a new and exciting life.

Unfortunately, the Navy was not what he had hoped it would be. Prior to enlisting, Randy had never used any illegal substances, but that quickly changed once he met a group of young men who smoked marijuana regularly. He began using it daily as an escape and eventually tried other types of drugs, such as heroin and LSD. Less than six months later, the Navy discharged Randy for substance use, and he found himself back in Council Bluffs without a job or a place to live.

Gripped with a desire to escape his circumstances, Randy soon left Council Bluffs. He hitchhiked out west, eventually making his way to Cheyenne, Wyoming. He started a promising career as a carpenter, working as an assistant to the foreman at the local saw mill. He found an apartment of his own. Despite his turnaround, Randy could not rid himself of his bad habits. Eventually, he found himself homeless. His pattern continued for nearly 20 years.

When he was in his mid-40s, Randy noticed a lump on his lower lip and went to a doctor to have it examined. His doctor diagnosed him with lip cancer and recommended he undergo chemotherapy for treatment. Over the next year, Randy saw the lump get smaller, but the radiation caused his teeth to fall out, leaving him with a protruding lower lip. He was embarrassed by his appearance and felt ashamed to go out in public.

A few years later, Randy received news that his father suffered a stroke, so he returned to Council Bluffs to care for him. He and his father did not get along well enough to live together, and Randy found himself bouncing around various homeless shelters. At one such facility, he saw a flier that gave him hope and forever changed his life.

The flier featured information about Heartland Family Service’s Heartland Housing Navigation program, which helps individuals and families experiencing long-term homelessness find affordable housing. Randy immediately called the number listed. A young woman named Kieyona answered the phone and listened to his story. She worked tirelessly with Randy to find a clean, safe place for him to live.

For the first time in decades, Randy was optimistic about his future. But life threw him another curveball. During his search for a home, it was discovered he had lung cancer. Despite the debilitating side effect, Randy knew his best option was to undergo chemotherapy. He took his diagnosis in stride and conscientiously went to treatments each week.

One day, Kieyona called with fantastic news – he had finally been accepted at an apartment complex in Council Bluffs. Randy found renewed hope, as his dream of finding his own home had finally become a reality. One week later, he felt relieved to move into a fully furnished, newly-painted apartment that was safe, clean, and secure.

Six months later, Randy has settled into his new home, and he and his father are spending more time with each other. His doctors are optimistic about his prognosis. Most importantly, Randy’s quality of life has improved tremendously now that he has found a stable home.