Helping Homeless Veterans

Servicemen and servicewomen put their lives on the line to keep American safe; their fight does not always end when they come home.  Soldier On, a non-profit organization is honoring those who serve America by providing shelter to homeless veterans.

On Tuesday, August 24, 2010, Soldier On purchased the Western Massachusetts Regional Police Academy on Westfield Street in Springfield, MA, for $1!  They plan on converting the building into studio apartments for homeless veterans to live.

Soldier On has been helping homeless veterans since 1994.  With time the organization has moved beyond just helping provide shelter, they have set up Veterans Village projects where former homeless veterans are given the chance to own a home.

If you are currently looking for shelter in the Massachusetts area, visit the Warrior Gateway. If you know of other services that provide veteran assistance add them to our Directory.

To view the original article, Editorial: Bay State Honors Pledge to Veterans, click here.

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New Pilot Program to Help Chronically Homeless Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs will pilot a new program in Denver, Colorado and four other cities to help decrease the number of homeless veterans.

The program is funded with a $33 million grant, that will create a 40-bed program for unceasingly homeless veterans over the next five years.

In about 18 months, the Denver program plans to house many veterans.  They have yet to decide on a building where they will provide shelter. The area will also provide therapy and treatment to veterans in the program. Other services available within the residential treatment area will include job skills training, medical and mental health help and assistance with addictions.

“We do not want men and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq to find themselves homeless and on the streets,” said Barbara Poppe, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Other cities that plan to be involved in the pilot program are San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Miami.

If you are currently looking for shelter in the Colorado area, visit the Warrior Gateway. If you know of other services that provide veteran assistance add them to our directory.

To view the original article, Denver gets new pilot program to help chronically homeless veterans, by Colleen O’Connor click here.

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Reintegration Back Into Society Made Easier for Veterans

Adjusting back into society for many veterans is difficult.  Many struggle with not being able to find jobs and sometimes end up homeless.  Two programs are working together to help veterans avoid these problems.

The AACOG (Alamo Area Coalition of Government), out of San Antonio, TX has a house weatherization program that builds and modifies homes to reduce energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency.  In combination with the American GI Forum and their “One-Stop” Veteran Service Center, the two provide jobs for veterans, to help in their reintegration process.  The “One-Stop” Veterans Service Center also provides services including: a residential center for homeless veterans, Texas veterans outreach program, and help for disabled veterans.

To help with employment and training services the GI Forum also gets veterans in touch with the Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training to help with the process of getting back in the workforce.

If you are currently looking for assistance in San Antonio, visit the Warrior Gateway and search for service organizations in your area.  If you know of any helpful organizations share them with others in our Directory.

To view the original article, Helping Veterans Who Come Home, by Cathy Pasmore, click here.

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The struggles of female veterans

This week in the news there were a number of articles describing the challenges faced by recent OEF/OIF female veterans.

Former Army Pvt. Margaret Ortiz holds a photo of herself from Iraq in her room at the women’s shelter in Long Beach, Calif. Image courtesy of the AP

Former Army Pvt. Margaret Ortiz holds a photo of herself from Iraq in her room at the women’s shelter in Long Beach, Calif. Image courtesy of the AP

First, the AP has written up a nice article giving some detail on the situation of female homeless veterans. Female homeless veterans face increased risks in that they are usually younger and often have children in their care. Also, in many housing programs like VA-run homeless shelters, only men are eligible to be taken in.

“People think we’re just coming out of the military and we should have our stuff together,” said Tiffany Belle, 33, a former Navy sailor who served in the Philippines after 9-11 and lives with Ortiz at the U.S. Vets program. “It gets really hard. Some people don’t know where to go, what to do.”

Next, also from the AP, is an article about the other challenges even non-homeless female veterans face. Upon coming home, male veterans are clapped on the back, have drinks bought for them at bars, and are generally welcomed into an established network of support and thanks. For female veterans, fitting back in and being warmly welcomed often isn’t so easy. Common challenges like coping with past sexual harassment, PTSD, and a lack of recognition of their service to the country can create a sense of isolation during the process of transitioning back to civilian life.

“What worries me is that women themselves still don’t see themselves as veterans, so they don’t get the care they need for post-traumatic stress syndrome or traumatic brain injury or even sexual assault, which obviously is more unique to women, so we still have a long ways to go,” said Murray, D-Wash.

Visible steps to address veteran homelessness

As we enter December and temperatures continue to drop, we reach the season where survival can be acutely difficult for the homeless. The VA estimates that up to 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. This is clearly a time for serious thinking about how to address this persistent problem.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has publicly committed to working to end veteran homelessness within 5 years. In 2010 the VA will spend $3.2 billion to achieve this goal, with “as much as $500 million going to homeless programs and $2.5 billion to medical services,” according to the Washington Times.

Ending veteran homelessness is no doubt a hugely ambitious goal, but this weekend in the news we see a smattering of stories which provide some hope that substantive steps are being taken to help achieve that goal. A new homeless shelter is has been dedicated in Ventura, CA, which will have the capacity for 60 disabled and elderly veterans and was largely funded by the VA. In Shreveport, LA a similar facility is being opened by the Volunteers of America, with a capacity for 56 veterans. And finally, a 32-bed shelter will open today in Chicago in a ceremony attended by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois Asst. VA Secretary Tammy Duckworth.

As the Washington Times states,

Our time waiting for soldiers to return from war will be well spent if we are about the shared goal of protecting and defending our country. Protecting those least among us from the inhumane conditions of persistent poverty and defending their right to housing.