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Homeless Veterans Deserve More

Overwhelming challenges veterans face returning to civilian life.

Helping our Veterans

On Veteran's Day we take a collective pause to reflect on the great debt we owe our veterans. And one of the most important things we can do as a nation is to help them with the difficult transition back to civilian life.

When someone enlists in any branch of our military, they go through extensive training to defend our country. Yet, there is no help integrating them back into civilian life when they return. Readjusting to civilian life can be overwhelming. Emotional trauma and/or physical disability are only some of the many challenges veterans must overcome.

Finding employment and affordable housing can be difficult. Veterans often lack the qualifications and skills needed to compete for jobs in the civilian workplace. Their military occupations and training do not transfer to corporate American, putting them at a disadvantage. Without a job or a place to live some veterans find themselves homeless.

Veterans and Homelessness

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, approximately 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night.

To further compound the issues affecting all homeless people, such as a lack of affordable housing, livable income, and access to health care, it is estimated that 80 percent of homeless veterans suffer from mental health challenges, substance abuse, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Without support and treatment regaining their lives becomes more and more difficult.

The need for housing, mental and physical health care, substance abuse treatment, and job training/placement services is significant, yet Government funding is limited. Prison inmates have their basic needs met, along with access to educational programming. Shouldn't our veterans have the same?

Ways to Help

There are many ways to help improve the quality of life for our veterans in need, from making a charitable contribution to volunteering talent and time. Reach out to the local homeless veteran providers in your area and see how you can best help. Below are some organizations that provide ways to get involved:

Wounded Warrior Project: The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) provides rehabilitation, activities and career services for wounded warriors and their families. There are a number of ways to help, such as hosting a Supporter Event, sending letters to injured service members, giving a monthly gift, or making a donation in honor of a loved one.

Homes for Our Troops: Homes For Our Troops (HFOT) helps severely injured post–9/11 veterans rebuild their lives by building and donating custom homes giving back some of the freedom and independence our veterans sacrificed.

Disabled American Veterans: Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is a nonprofit charity that offers a host of services to support disabled veterans, such as providing rides to medical appointment, assisting with benefit claims, hosting job fairs and providing resources to help them succeed, fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill, and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. DAV offers many ways to give back to our veterans.

Pets for Vets: Pets for Vets pairs veterans with shelter animals, which can help veterans deal with PTSD and other emotional and physical injuries that can make it difficult to transition back to civilian life. It’s a win-win situation: “Needy shelter animals receive a second chance at life while giving our returning soldier a second chance at health and happiness,” says Pets for Vets on their website.

“Stand Down” to help homeless veterans rebuild their lives: The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans provides the framework for a Stand Down, and volunteers can use these tools to organize a Stand Down in their own community. A Stand Down is a community event that provides a temporary ‘base of operations’ where homeless veterans and their families can access hygiene essentials, clean clothes, warm meals, medical care, and emotional and legal counseling.

Drive a veteran to an appointment: DAV Transportation Network coordinates volunteers to drive veterans to medical appointments, so even vets living far away from VA hospitals can receive the treatment they need.

This Veteran’s Day let’s show the men and women who served our country how much we appreciate and honor them. Our veterans deserve dignity and respect. Together we can make a difference. There is a Way!

Copyright © Dr. Diane Roberts Stoler

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