As the nation pauses this week to acknowledge and celebrate our veterans, I’d like to encourage everyone to make a commitment to help put an end to homelessness among veterans. Sadly, many of the men and women who risked their lives for our freedom are now faced with perhaps the biggest battle of their lives. They are homeless and suffering from mental illness. Others are on the brink of losing their jobs and homes. Veterans returning from the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars are having a difficult time finding employment, which results in an increase in the number of young, homeless veterans.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), 23 percent of the country’s homeless population are veterans. In order to end this crisis, veterans must have easy access to numerous programs, services and benefits. Here at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we have special support programs in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that help homeless male and female veterans get back on their feet. The veterans receive all of the necessary services to escape this downward spiral: housing, food, medical and psychological care, substance abuse treatment, job training, and educational opportunities.
There are several efforts underway to reduce the incidence of homelessness among veterans of the armed forces. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans’ entire mission is to end veteran homelessness by shaping public policy, promoting collaboration, and building the capacity of service providers. President Barack Obama’s Administration led the charge this summer when the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness released a comprehensive plan — “Opening Doors” — to end homelessness among veterans by 2015. The VA has committed to providing resources for this initiative.
It is heartbreaking to see a person who has given his or her blood and life for all of our well being end up with no place to go. Our heroes deserve dignity and respect.