Randall Cook

You’d be surprised how easy it is to end up homeless. Randall Cook, age 55 and originally from Dayton, Ohio, spent years living in Washington Circle Park, sleeping on a bench in all kinds of weather.

This reality was a stark contrast to the dreams he had when he joined the US Navy at age 18.

Randall saw the world, serving his country on two tours of duty as a yeoman. He loved being a “Navy Man”. And he was good at it. He earned a chestful of medals and awards.

Then he moved to Washington to work at the Pentagon. It seemed like the right move, but it wasn’t. Sitting at a desk and doing paperwork made Randall restless and unhappy. He’d loved life at sea, always visiting new places, constantly doing important and exciting things. The desk job didn’t feel that way.

Then Randall got some devastating news: His brother had committed suicide. It hit him like a ton of bricks. His life started to unravel. He struggled with depression. He couldn’t concentrate, and life just didn’t make sense to him. He left the Navy with an honorable discharge. Being out on his own only made things worse. Without the structure of military life, Randall had trouble fitting in. He lost his home and made a bench in Washington Circle his home for years. Maybe you walked past him there during that time. That could have been the end of Randall’s story. People experiencing chronic homelessness like him face dangers and challenges most of us can hardly imagine. They have a much shorter life expectancy.

But something good happened. And this is where you as a supporter of Miriam’s Kitchen enter Randall’s story. One day Randall “followed the crowd” to Miriam’s Kitchen and enjoyed a delicious meal. He quickly became a regular. Randall loved the meals, especially the sloppy joes and fish sandwiches.

A full stomach was only the beginning.

He’d been shy, withdrawn, uncomfortable around other people. Not anymore. He made many friends and began to present his poetry at Miriam’s Studio where people like Randall can express themselves in a supportive environment.

Life was looking up for Randall— but he still did not have the dignity of a home.  About a year ago, one of our caseworkers spoke with Randall about finding a permanent place to live. Together they tackled the mountain of paperwork and connected him to the VA. Finally, Randall received a housing voucher.

Late last year, Randall was accepted into a new apartment building on North Capitol Street. When he first saw it, he said, “What did I do to deserve this? Pinch me—am I really awake?” He was so thrilled. One detail about it really pleased him: The building is right across the street from the NPR offices. His favorite radio station.

In January, Randall unpacked and settled into his new home. His case manager arrived with his favorite food—and a radio, so he could listen to NPR.

Randall enjoys his new neighbors. In February he helped organize a Super Bowl party. In the future, Randall wants to get back to writing his poetry, and maybe even write a book about his life.

Homelessness can hit anyone, including a Navy Man like Randall. And for someone who has experienced homelessness for years, it can be hard to move off the streets.

But thanks to you—and your generous support of Miriam’s Kitchen—we’re reaching people like Randall and helping them transform their lives. The credit goes to you! Your support provides critical care for our guests—from meals to housing. And you’re making Washington a better place for us all—one where no one must sleep out on the streets for years. Thank you!

Learn more stories from MK guests.