He was once considered a champion. In the boxing ring, he was unstoppable. But life got in the way of his dreams and Marcus Key found himself penniless, lonely and homeless.

Key, 37, boxed professionally for eight years with his first professional fight in Austin that would ultimately lead him to the heavyweight Master of Martial Arts championship title at age 32. A video recording of the MMA bout is still a big draw on YouTube. But life had Key down for the count.

“I lost my job working at a restaurant and I could not pay my bills. Pretty soon, I had nowhere to live,” Key said. “I don’t blame anyone. This has just been my experience. But I perceive it as an opportunity to do better.”

Key is currently living at Cove House and will not be with his family this Christmas. All the beds are full at Cove House. Keith Perkins is one of the men at Cove House who also will miss Christmas with his children, two boys ages 5 and 10.

“I want to get a place, a stable job, and be a father to my son,” Perkins said. “But I am grateful and thankful that I am not on the streets and not in jail. On holidays and special occasions, I am especially humbled.”

Perkins moved to Texas to live closer to a woman he was dating. When that relationship ended, he found himself unemployed with nowhere to live. He struggled with drugs and alcohol for 4 to 5 years.

“This is my first time staying in a shelter. It was a struggle adjusting mentally and I have asked myself a lot of questions about me and where I go from here,” Perkins said. “I never thought I wouldn’t have my own means for living. I had hard roads coming here. (A shelter) is not where you want to be and I am not looking to live here forever.”

Both men are military veterans. Perkins served in the Navy for more than three years. But he said his dishonorable discharge for drug and alcohol use will not allow him to return.

Key served in the Army for more than six years. It is not uncommon for military members to find themselves homeless.

The VA reported an 8 percent reduction in homeless veterans between January 2012 and January 2013.

The current administration’s goal is to eliminate veterans’ homelessness in 2015.

Cove House Executive Director Benjamin Tindall said about 12 percent of those staying at Cove House in 2013 are veterans.

Today, both men desire to be contributing members of society.

Perkins said he is very capable of working but is having trouble getting hired. The culinary specialist has been out of work for three months. But he continues to fill out job applications daily.

Key is taking welding classes at CTC using financial aid and has gotten a job at a fast food restaurant. He is working toward a promotion to management.

“Coming (to the shelter) taught me a lot of things,” Key said. “I am ready to go on and face the world again. I am a fighter.”

Contact Wendy Sledd at wsledd@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7476

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