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Never Miss a Chance to Do the Most Good

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – A lost job, a crime, or a missed rent payment are a few of the reasons people can lose their homes. The path out of homelessness is different for each person.

“It was just a bump in the road when I got here. I thought everything would work out but it just didn’t.”

It doesn’t take much for a life that’s thriving to turn into a life that’s surviving.

Benjamin March was a student at Ohio State and a man with dreams. In fact, his passion is video games, a love he reveals to viewers on live streams each week.

“When I was younger a long time ago, I used to have a VCR and a camera, and just record myself,” March said.

March has always had trouble identifying with people his age.

“It’s hard to be around people,” March said. “Some people I know better than others, like talking to strangers is hard.”

About 1 in 54 children are identified with autism spectrum disorder according to the CDC; March is one of them. People with Asberger Syndrome have trouble understanding things and communicating socially with people.

Some doctors estimate that as many as 50 percent of those with autism remain undiagnosed according to Asberger/Autism Network. School didn’t work out for March and he traveled to La Crosse by train. He couldn’t afford rent and it was January in the Midwest.

“I was outside for like three days in a row,” March said. “I was staying at Walmart, and actually what I did is I dug into the snow at Walmart parking lot and put all my stuff.”

March eventually sought help from the Salvation Army. Community health worker Megan Funk was one of the first people to meet March.

“During the winter we have a warming service that anyone can come in the building at any time and warm-up, especially in frigid temperatures,” Funk said. “And in walks this young man in a bright yellow sweatshirt.”

Case manager Bob Matthews took on March’s case which had some battle wounds. Wounds in the form of more than $30,000 in student loans, no job, and 600 miles from the place he grew up.

“He just basically gave me the basics,” Funk said. “My name is Ben and I am homeless.”

Funk and Matthews knew it would take time to get March to understand how to communicate.

“One day the boss sat down and said, ‘What brings you to town bud?’ He was like, ‘the train,'” Matthews said.

Matthews said he was able to get his student loans forgiven.

“He would never make enough to pay that back,” Matthews said.

Dismissing the loans was a big step to financial freedom. March now lives in an adult family home that offers him a chance at independence and support.

“At least I get peace and quiet when I want to,” March said.

Many homeless cases have a lot of failure throughout the process.

“You have officially gotten on a roller coaster,” Matthews said. “You’re riding their highs you’re riding their lows. Sometimes there’s victories, sometimes they go back to jail.”

March’s case is the one his support team will remember for a long time. He is now working at a rest stop along Interstate 90.

“It’s definitely a chapter in my life that I’ll remember forever,” Funk said.

His success builds hope and confidence in Funk and Matthews.

“I love the guy to death. He’s great,” Matthews said.

March is once again a man with dreams, and a man with a path to make his goals real.

“I was just ecstatic for him and to see the smile on his face was just life-changing,” Funk said.

“Stories of Salvation” will be held Tuesday from 11 a.m. until noon.  Community members are asked to make a $25, which will benefit The Salvation Army of La Crosse’s Emergency Shelter program. Due to the pandemic, the event will be broadcasted live on The Salvation Army’s Facebook page.