Arthur Hopper’s former Vet LIFT roommate reconnected with his kids and moved to be closer. Now Arthur hopes to do the same, and his chances are good because Vet LIFT is all about reconnecting with society and family.
Arthur also channels his energy more productively than in decades past. He was the angry child of parents who fought bitterly. After their divorce, Arthur alternated between their distant households, leaving when his welcome ran out.
At 15 he took up cigarettes, his personal gateway to alcohol and meth. He fought, and as his reputation and record grew, even fights he didn’t start landed him in jail.
“I got to see a lot of judges,” Arthur said. “The more I graced their presence, the more effective they wanted to be.”
After a stint in the Army, Arthur worked in the Texas oil fields and as a car salesman in southern California. He married and had three kids. The marriage was “screwed up,” Arthur said. But the divorce dealt his toughest blow.
“I never thought my ex-wife would keep my children from me,” Arthur said. “That affected me a lot.”
Plagued by nightmares and substance abuse, he plummeted. For 10 years he was the listless patron of shelters and bridge abutments. When a computer search revealed that two of his children might be here, Arthur came to Eugene. He was at the Eugene Service Station when a woman asked, “Are you a veteran?”
It was Susan Harrison of the Eugene Reintegration Center, scouting for Vet LIFT candidates. She urged Arthur to attend the weekly support meetings that link homeless veterans with the opportunity to rebuild broken lives through sobriety, community, case management, and transitional housing.
Weeks later, Arthur finally went as promised. “(Susan) made me believe that she really cared about me,” he said.
Assured that Vet LIFT addresses both symptoms and underlying issues, Arthur gave it a shot. Halfway into the two-year Grant and Per Diem program, he has passed his college entrance exams and is learning through intensive case management to control negative influences and savor the good.
“I had never been drift fishing ‘til I came here,” he said. “When my birthday rolled around, I had two cakes!”
Arthur returns the favors, applying skills acquired in prison bakeries. His brownies are a favorite in the Vet LIFT office.
Mostly, Arthur strives to see his now-grown children. Before Vet LIFT, it was out of the question.
“I have a nice place to stay, and I’m doing positive things with my life,” he said. “All my kids have to do is look. And they’re my kids. They’ll look harder than anyone else.”