Marine gets his life back after 20 years of homelessness, addiction

Vinca ‘Andre’ Dixon, featured in photography exhibit, wants veterans to know breaking the cycle is possible

SAN ANTONIO – A local Marine veteran is proving you can break the cycle of homelessness and addiction.

“I wouldn’t speak to people. I wouldn’t smile. When I first started smiling again, it was hurtin’ for a while!” said Vinca “Andre” Dixon with his contagious laugh.

It’s a laugh that was absent for two decades.

Dixon served in the U.S. Marines from 1981 to 1987, then 10 years in the Reserves. Once he got out, his soul mate of 30 years passed away.

“I can’t even put it in words how much the pain was,” he said.

His mental health plummeted, and he used alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. It led him to dark places.

“In and out of jail. I was just in a perpetual state of homelessness for about 20 years,” Dixon said.

Like many veterans, the stigma of getting help isolated him even further.

“That’s the mentality. You fix it. You solve it. I didn’t want to bring my family down,” Dixon said.

He showed KSAT a picture taken the day he showed up at the Haven for Hope shelter. Upon intake, he was led to a veterans specialist who set him up with Endeavors case manager.

Endeavors offers wrap-around services to veterans who need help with mental health, housing, and building community.

“Endeavors is a type of organization — if you come and knock, they’ll open the door, and they won’t close it until you’re housed,” Dixon said.

He’s been sober for five years and finally got his apartment one year ago this month.

Dixon’s success landed him on the walls of the Endeavors Veterans Wellness Center as part of the “Faces of Strength” photography and video exhibit.

The exhibit will be up through November, which is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month.

“When they told me, I was like, ‘Me?’” Dixon said, walking us to see his professional photo displayed on the first floor near the workout facility.

He beamed with pride as we saw the photo of him laughing, his smile shining through the photograph.

When he first saw it a couple of days before, he said, “I started almost crying because I get emotional when I think about how far God has brought me. I know a lot of people that have gone through a lot of traumatic experiences, and a lot of people never come out of it, you know? So I’m just so thankful that I came out of it.”

His pride and self-confidence are back to stay, and he wants other veterans to see it.

“The only reason that a veteran should be homeless now is because they choose to be, because there are so many resources that are available to you. There are so many organizations and nonprofit organizations that will bend over backwards to help you,” Dixon said.

Any veterans looking at Dixon and wanting to end up where he is can meet him every Monday at the Haven for Hope meeting for veterans. It’s held at the shelter from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. every week. There are at least 15 veterans who go to the meeting, including Dixon, as well as representatives from several nonprofits, including Endeavors.

To the struggling vets out there, Dixson said he hopes to see you there.


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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.