May 19, 2021

For one of The Salvation Army’s veteran success stories, Michael Jackson’s hit song “Man in the Mirror” proved to be the inspiration for following a straight and narrow path. 

“You’ve got to look at yourself and what you want,” said veteran Dennis Simpson, a recovering alcoholic and homeless veteran who went through a months-long sobriety program at the Salvation Army’s Midtown Service and Treatment Center and established temporary housing, before moving onto permanent housing, all within a city block of each other at TSA’s multi-building Midtown complex.

“Where do you start? With the man in the mirror,” Simpson said of the King of Pop’s song, recounting his thought process of life change. “It just took me a little while. The man in the mirror – that’s me.”

At 63, Simpson said he had to eat part of his pride first, taking Army directives to attend classes, go to full-time work with a two-hour public transportation commute, stay sober, and attend group meetings with fellow veterans at night.

“I’d say, about the third month, [I got serious],” Simpson said. “I mean, I’m not used to being told what to do and when to do it. I really sat down and had a one-on-one with myself. ‘What do I really want?’ I want to get clean and sober. I need stability. I need a place and a roof over my head. I got the job. In a year and a half, I can retire.”

With the age of retirement, 65, approaching, Simpson is in the unique and well-earned position of having three streams of income coming his way. Pensions will come from his time at a day job and the military, and payments will start from Social Security.

“I set that goal. That’s still my goal,” Simpson said. “I got the housing, I got the sobriety, working on that, so all I got to do now is walk a straight and narrow road. There are a lot of temptations out there. What more can I do, other than hurt myself? I don’t like pain.”

The Salvation Army’s Veterans Residence houses 24 units of about 450 square feet each, priced at about $150 a week, signed to leases for the duration of the veterans’ participation, for those committed to following the program. There are also 24 units of veterans’ temporary loft-like apartments, where Simpson was staying before moving into his permanent unit in late April.

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