Frederick “Rick” Bush is 44-years old and a veteran of the US military. The former Air Force firefighter is struggling to find a place to live, since he’s been homeless for the past four weeks. Bush served in the military from 1989 – 1993, and even served time in the Persian Gulf War. The divorced father of two has two sons, aged 13 and 15, but is finding that his life isn’t what he thought it would be.
Unfortunately for Bush, he also has a criminal record. This means that he’s going to have a difficult time finding work, especially in the state of Alabama, where men like him are not allowed to participate in the economic system. Bush has spent the last several years recovering from a series of addictions, including alcohol, marijuana and cocaine.
His struggles reflect a strong and growing underclass of people, especially black men, who are forgotten by our society. Many of them, like Bush, are hit with the hammer of drug convictions during the epic War on Drugs, which yielded no positive results for society, but had a huge price in terms of the number of families that were ruined in the process.
When men such as Bush are unable to find work or a place to live, it makes it difficult for them to be fathers. The stresses of taking care of a spouse and children when you are unable to find work can be huge, especially on black men. This has led to a spike in the numbers of unwed mothers and single parent homes over the last 30 years.
This isn’t the first time he’s been homeless. Last time, it lasted about three months.
Now, Bush says he is working to reinvent himself. He’s in his second year of college, attending Phoenix University online under a Pell grant.
It’s estimated that 26 percent of the people served by the Waterfront Rescue Mission are veterans, according to Executive Director Bill Bru. Not all have the same background or face the same challenges as Bush. But his story is not unfamiliar to mission workers.
His situation offers a glimpse into what happens on the streets of Mobile every day.
This is how Frederick “Rick” Bush spent his day on Tuesday, Oct. 7, a typical day for the homeless man that included a visit to the Veterans Administration, homework at a public library and trips to and from the Rescue Mission for meals.