Steve Dooley “Flips the Script”

Steve Dooley in front of his office building at Volunteers of America.

Steve Dooley’s life took many twists and turns before he arrived at Volunteers of America.  He went from “zero to hero”, rising up from a tough background to being a social worker with two master’s degrees and as Steve jokes, “a theoretical Ph.D from the streets”. But a couple years ago the harsh economy took its toll on Steve and he “flipped the script”. The counselor needed counseling; the social worker became a client.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Steve stayed close to home for college when he attended Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) and Loyola where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in radio/tv communications.  After college Steve joined the military where he was an airman/seaman for 3 years on the USS John F. Kennedy. He discovered his real passion for social work when he entered a master’s program at SUNO.

As a graduate student working towards becoming a social worker Steve participated in several community groups including Total Community Action (TCA), Big Brothers, and the Boys and Girls Club.  When Hurricane Katrina hit he lived in a FEMA trailer on the SUNO campus with other hurricane affected students, faculty, and their families. He wanted to bring some relief to the emotional stress the children in the trailer park were facing and so he built a playground for the kids on the SUNO campus. The Louisiana Spirit’s “Unsung Hero” article praising him for his efforts gave him the credentials he needed to pursue another master’s degree in criminal justice.

Steve left for Colorado in 2010 to be with his girlfriend where he stayed until 2011.  He was a lead treatment counselor at Shiloh House group home where he worked with traumatized youth (both the culprits and the victims). When his relationship started to wane he started feeling more and more isolated without his family and wanted to come back to New Orleans for their moral support.  The kids were sad and crying when he left, but he knew it was time to go home.

Before he got back to New Orleans his mom had died with Alzheimer’s and Steve felt he was on his own for living arrangements. He could not find a job, became isolated for several months and found himself spending lots of time in his truck.  Given his education and work experience Steve was shocked that so much time was going by and he couldn’t find any work in New Orleans.  He was professional and educated but it just wasn’t happening. After so much searching and no success he became beleaguered with stress, duress, anger, frustration, and hurt.  He didn’t need psychological help, he just needed a job.

At this point he turned to Volunteers of America where he was connected to a case worker.  His social worker determined he was qualified for assistance as a veteran and he was given housing at Volunteers of America’s Veterans Transitional Housing Facility while he continued to search for work. Program Director of Supportive Services Melissa Haley recognized his abilities as a man of social work and soon hired him as an intake specialist at Volunteers of America’s Supportive Services for Veterans Families program (SSVF).  Once again Steve “flipped the script” and is now back on an upswing.  As an intake specialist Steve helps other veterans who are homeless to find permanent employment and housing.  Although Steve was losing hope little by little during his period of unemployment, his new job has recharged his spirits. Ironically upon his Case Managers Ty’s departure Mr. Dooley replaced her as a Full Time Case Manager for the SSVF program.

Steve advises his clients not to get too caught up in handouts but to stay disciplined, be a go getter, and once you get what you’re looking for, make sure to maintain it.  Throughout his low points in life Steve has remained optimistic, driven, determined, and realistic. He is working towards owning his own home, finding a great companion, and advancing in his career and of that he is “absolutely, positively hopeful”.

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