Think back to the last time that you had an interaction with a homeless individual. Did you offer a helping hand to get them through their day or did you simply walk past as if they blended into their surroundings? Did they look as if they had never made a contribution to the society that they were begging for help? Look closer, because according to statistics one of every ten homeless Americans was at one time a defender of our Freedom and Liberty. Homeless Veterans account for nearly 12% of our homeless population. On any given night, 50,000 Veterans sleep without a roof over their head or a meal in their stomach. This injustice of turning a blind eye to those who have given so much to defend the freedoms we cherish is a travesty. For many, they simply lack the support and environment to get back on their feet.
So why are so many homeless Americans Veterans? One reason is because of highly traumatic experiences faced by many Vets. A large portion of Veterans suffer from some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other lingering side effects. PTSD is a huge factor in Vet homelessness due to the high correlation between it and depression. Other contributing factors include the fact that many military occupations and training simply do not correlate to the civilian arena. This factor puts many Vets at a disadvantage in the Job market place. Without useable skills and training, job security is a serious issue.
Veteran Affairs is one organization that has been making a huge difference in the war on homelessness in the Veteran community. Specialized programs offered by VA include health care that reach over 150,000 homeless Vets and other miscellaneous services that lend a helping hand to 112,000 other Vets. Since the late 1980s VA’s programs have stressed community collaboration and partnerships to help combat homelessness in the Veteran community. Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Along with this, Veterans require training relevant to the civilian job market. Veteran to Veteran programs have also been hugely successful, using the shared experience of the military and camaraderie to uplift and motivate individuals seeking help.
Now you may ask, “How can I make a difference in remedying this social injustice?” The answer is relatively simple. First, determine if there is a need in your community for Veteran assistance. If there is a need, get others involved. People who care are the first step for solving the problem. Many Veterans simply need someone for support and guidance to get their lives back on track. You can also participate in local homeless coalitions that are already established in your communities. Lastly, even if you don’t have time, make a donation or write to your elected officials. By coming together to support and motivate those who have become homeless after serving our country, we can solve this injustice once and for all.