Veterans Day for homeless vets
As the nation celebrates Veterans Day with memorials and words of appreciation for those who have fought and sacrificed for our freedom, we must not forget one segment of the veteran population: the homeless. According to a report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, veterans make up 26% of the homeless population even though they only constitute 11% of the entire population.
There are several main contributors to homelessness which can affect anyone, including former service men and women. These encompass such factors as low wages, loss of income, and unemployment. In addition to these common issues, the Alliance has identified several other contributors specific to veteran homelessness, including separation from the support of loved ones, lower self-esteem or stunted communication skills because of the strain of service, and trouble readjusting to civilian life. We should also remember that many veterans have suffered permanent injuries during their service; adjusting to life with a handicap is emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting and can even hinder someone’s ability to earn a living in their accustomed manner. In addition, the Alliance reminds us that the drooping economy, skyrocketing unemployment rates, and shortage of job openings are difficult on everyone, but particularly for those just returning to the states or readjusting to life here.
With these contributors to veteran homelessness in mind, we ask that you consider what you can do today to assist former service men and women in returning to self-sufficiency and stability. Here are a few simple steps you can take to make a difference:
• Teach your family to remember. By sharing with your children and loved ones the history and importance of Veterans Day, you are ensuring that the meaning and intent of this important day is not lost. You can find a wonderful synopsis of what the holiday means at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
• Get to know one veteran who is struggling. Perhaps the individual has been homeless for years, or possibly they have just returned from the front lines and are struggling financially. In either case, your friendship and support will make a world of difference in the life of someone who has already sacrificed so much.
• Share your voice. The Alliance provides a listing of several initiatives related to homeless vets that require congressional action. The more informed you are about these issues, the greater your ability to make a difference in the policies affecting homeless veterans.
• Volunteer or donate. The Coalition provides shelter services to a number of homeless veterans each night. By donating your time or resources to the Coalition, you are enabling us to continue offering the homeless programs and services that will enable them to return to independence.
We hope remembrance and action are a part of your Veterans Day. They certainly are a part of ours.