Veteran’s Administration Specialized Programs
The Veteran’s Administration identified six programs that would be critical to the rehabilitation of injured or disturbed veterans. Identification of beneficial services is the easiest part of the process. Homeless people do not normally search around for these services. Veterans need to be found and connected with a coordinator of services.
A fair number of homeless veterans are well educated, yet they are poor wanderers. This indicates that it was too difficult to pick up where they left off in pre-combat life. Coming home is easy. Being home is the hard part. It is much easier to drown in alcohol, drift with drugs and let life – and themselves – pass by.
To try to alleviate some of this problem, the VA activated an Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans. The committee is charged with the responsibility to ensure that every veteran – no matter what age, gender, disability or race – shall be provided the services needed to help in the process of rehabilitation and reintegration into civilian life as a fully functioning member of society.
Homeless Veteran Coordinator
The Advisory Committee recommended establishing a position called the Homeless Veteran Coordinator. Most VA Medical Centers have a Coordinator available to connect veterans with the most appropriate professionals that can render the needed services. Most important, the veterans who needed those services had to be found.
When and where is the best place to find the homeless veteran? Since the homeless population tends to congregate together and watch out for each other, it is unlikely that members of this group would be conveniently located at a VA Medical Center. The Coordinator had a responsibility to wander out of the office and mingle with the members of this population.
Fortunately, homeless shelters have been available in most cities for several decades. They formerly catered to the street people looking for a place to sleep overnight or to seek shelter from the weather. Among the benefits at the shelter were hot showers, good evening meals, warm blankets and soft pillows.
When census-takers and shelter managers noticed an increase in existing homeless populations, questions surfaced concerning the identities and city/town of origin. They discovered that the homeless population was growing with veterans – homeless veterans who had no place to live or call home.
Services Available to Homeless Veterans
One of the previously identified priorities was housing homeless veterans. This need was real and immediate. The Homeless Veteran Coordinator position was created for this very reason. The Coordinator would also be the scout for properties suitable for group living. These properties were identified, bought or rented and furnished as shelters for homeless veterans.
The most important part of this position, however, would be public relations. The soon-to-be veterans had to be advised that these places existed and the best time to inform them had to be during the pre-homecoming debriefings. The good news is that this approach appears to be viable. It is working as evidenced by the fact that the network of veteran shelters has grown since 1987. Space within the existing shelters is at an all-time premium.
Locating Veteran Shelters
Volunteers are always welcome at the shelters for homeless veterans. Don’t let this be a fleeting thought to be taken lightly. Your time and effort is a meaningful way to say “thank you” to a combat veteran. There may be a homeless veteran shelter in your community. The residents would be grateful for your tax-deductible support, fundraising assistance or telemarketing expertise.
The Veterans Administration keeps a list of the 232 homeless veteran shelters located across the 50 United States. Follow this link to valuable information and locations of these shelters: http://www1.va.gov/homeless. The entire site is dedicated to the health, safety and support of homeless veterans.
Supporting Veteran Shelters
Most of the shelters provide space for counseling services, group sessions, job training and connect the veteran with needed medical and dental attention. The shelters are dependent on fundraising efforts, especially public outreach by way of awareness mailings, donation request mailings, telemarketing and open houses.
Except for some limited staff, the shelters are essentially self-sufficient and not directly government funded. The Veterans Administration does provide Grant and Per Diem assistance as funds allow. When the opportunity arises – and it will – giving a contribution to a veteran’s shelter is the biggest “thank you” that you could ever give our guardians of freedom.
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