14 April 2019
In the great United States of America, Veterans serve our country risking their lives to protect not only us, but the freedoms that are cherished by many every single day.
For decades, we the people have remained bystanders, watching our Veterans return home from deployment and/or wars and struggle to find jobs, shelter to live in, and even food. According to VA.gov, ”On a single night in January 2018, just over 37,800 Veterans were experiencing homelessness. On the same night, just over 23,300 of the Veterans counted were unsheltered or living on the street.”(VA.gov). As Americans, it is our duty to find a solution to this issue and assure that no member of the military falls through the cracks and is forgotten.
A little background on our homeless, struggling veterans to keep in mind is that according to The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ,”The nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly 9% being female.”(Nchv.org). This is primarily because the first women were not allowed to serve in the military until 1948 working as nurses, technicians, officers and more.(Nchv.org). Up until around 1976, women were admitted into the first service academy for combat preparation.(Nchv.org). With this being said, there may have been less women actually in the service at the time, but that does not affect the statistics in regards to homeless female veterans. “Immunity to homelessness does not exist for any subset of the veteran population. Homelessness does not discriminate against gender or race, though it is worth noting that women veterans are an exceptionally vulnerable portion of this population.
Women veterans are at an increased risk of homelessness (2.4 percent), when compared to their male veteran counterparts (1.4 percent). This is in part due to their increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), loss of employment, dissolution of marriages, and feelings of having a lack of gender-specific support. These increased risks may all be amplified if the veteran does not self-identify as a veteran –– meaning they may be less likely to be offered or seek veterans benefits. It is also important to note that 21 percent of homeless women veterans have dependent children, which often times may add to the anxiety and importance of finding permanent housing. In the VFW’s survey of women veterans, 46 percent of women veterans who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless were currently living in another person’s home, of that 46 percent, 71 percent have children.”(VFW.org). Due to such hardships, it is crucial that we discover a solution in which will benefit not only all of our veterans, but our female soldiers and single moms from the service.
Through research, I have found multiple efforts and ideas to prevent and solve the issue of homeless veterans within the United States. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has provided a list of ten strategies. If we can,“…Get State and Local Leaders to Publicly Commit to and Coordinate Efforts on Ending Veteran Homelessness.”(USICH) we will be able to have more people involved in putting and end to homeless veterans because there would be better advertising of the issue, as well as having political figures support the movement with funding and resources. By trying to,” Implement a Housing First System Orientation and Response.”(USICH)
we will be able to help provide semi-permanent shelter to those that reach out to the program resulting in more women and children becoming successful and having a better opportunity to exit poverty and create a better way of life. For this system to run smoother and be more successful, we need to,” Implement a Coordinated Entry System.”(USICH) allowing for ease of application and plenty of resources. Another great way to help advance the idea and stay on track is to,” Set and Meet Ambitious Short and Long-Term Goals by Deploying All Resources Effectively.”(USICH).
For those that are unable to apply for the housing first system, we need to,” Improve Transitional Housing Performance and Consider Adopting Different Models and/or Converting or Reallocating Resources Into Supportive Housing.”(USICH). By doing this, it will help get more veterans living in areas of poverty or high expense in to greater living conditions and a place that may be more affordable long term. To help begin the process of creating facilities with semi or permanent housing, we need to,” Engage and Support Private Landlords as Partners,” as well as,” Identify and Be Accountable to all Veterans Experiencing Homelessness.”(USICH). For those that are unable to apply for housing and do not know where to go, we can,”Conduct Coordinated Outreach and Engagement Efforts,” which can help lead to an,” Increased Connections to Employment.”(USICH). And for those who are homeless to legal mistakes, poor credit, debts, etc. we can,“ Coordinate With Legal Services Organizations To Solve Legal Needs.”(Usich.gov). With some of these ideas being more difficult to accomplish that others, joining together can help us get our veterans off of the streets.
One problem that may occur during our mission to better the lives of struggling for Veterans, is the want to do better for themselves. For some, the problem may be not wanting to feel vulnerable, dealing with mental illness and refusing assistance
, or possibly alcohol and drug addiction. Regardless of what services may be offered the homeless seem to refuse shelter and prefer to remain in the streets overnight. From first hand experience, when people are homeless they cling to the objects and belongings that they have and do what they can to keep their belongings. By staying the night in a shelter, they are typically unable to bring what they have inside the facility with them and others will steal their things overnight.
From research that I have done, we as the people of the states can fix the problem of homeless veterans in America and can better the lives of the women and the upcoming generations of children suffering.
- “Demographics of the U.S. Military.” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, www.cfr.org/article/demographics-us-military.
- National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, nchv.org/index.php/news/media/background_and_statistics/.
VHA Office of Mental Health. “Homeless Veterans.” Go to VA.gov, 8 Mar. 2012,
“Addressing Veteran Homelessness: Current Position; Future Course.” The Official Seal of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., www.vfw.org/advocacy/national-legislative-service/congressional-testimony/2018/1/addressing-veteran-homelessness-current-position-future-course.