The Army veteran had a wife and kids and was living in his sister's garage.
"I was homeless," Edwin Cathey said. "You never think you'll be in this position."
That all changed when Cathey enrolled in Working Wardrobes' VetNet program.
Working Wardrobes, a Costa Mesa-based nonprofit that provides career training, job placement services and professional wardrobe assistance to military veterans and young adults trying to overcome difficult challenges, hosted a VetNet client recognition and flag-raising event at its headquarters last week.
Working Wardrobes, founded by Jerri Rosen, launched VetNet in 2012 to provide men and women who served in the military with financial workshops, career assessments, job training opportunities, social reintegration assistance and other services. Since VetNet's inception, Working Wardrobes has helped about 1,200 veterans, Rosen said. Orange County is home to 132,000 veterans, and many are underprepared for civilian life, the organization says. According to a study commissioned by the Orange County Community Foundation, nearly 30% of post-9/11 veterans are unemployed and looking for work.
Cathey went through the VetNet program from April to June 2014, participating in industry-specific training. He became a security officer and went to college, obtaining a degree in electrical engineering. He is now a full-time security officer and paying his own rent in Buena Park.
"It's like an extended family here," Cathey, 57, told the crowd at the Nov. 4 VetNet event, which included local dignitaries, donors and veterans. "They help us to be all that we can be."
The event featured a flag-raising ceremony at a 30-foot flagpole installed outside Working Wardrobes' offices at 3030 Pullman St. Kana Pipeline Inc., a Placentia-based water and sewer pipe company, donated more than $2,000 worth of labor and other services for the flagpole.
Rep. Ed Royce's office presented a flag that had been flown over the Capitol in Washington. Working Wardrobes also received certificates of recognition from the offices of state Sen. Pat Bates, Rep. Mimi Walters and Assemblyman Don Wagner.
"This flag represents a stake we have put into the ground," Rosen said. "What's at stake at our organization is to help many more of our veterans."
Veronique Anthony, an Air Force veteran and a recent graduate of VetNet customer service training, received a certificate from Walters, Wagner and Assemblyman Bill Brough.
The event also featured representatives of employers such as U.S. Bank, Kaiser Permanente and Atomic Group, an information technology support service business.
Jim Forde of Diamond Resorts International looked at the veterans who had served in the Marine Corps, Navy and Army and held up a business card and clipboard.