By Toni Hedstrom
The plane touches down to crowds waving flags and banners. Shouts of “Welcome Home!” and “Thank You for Your Service!” are directed at American heroes as they come home. No one imagines those heroes being at risk of living on the streets. But, it happens, and at an alarming rate. The percentage of Americans who take the oath and join the service is just 7 percent, but the percentage of the homeless population that are veterans is almost 13 percent.
Who is to Blame?
There isn’t one person, government, parent, or entity to blame for homelessness. Homelessness results from many misfortunes, sometimes only temporary, and sometimes a state that is difficult to escape. The reasons a veteran becomes homeless are not unlike the homeless population in general. Lack of employment, lack of affordable housing, inability to access resources, mental health issues, and substance abuse issues.
It is all connected. Each path that leads to homelessness can start with one—just one thing that leads a person down a road of despair. It doesn’t matter what that first thing is. No matter what issue needs to be addressed, without a home to start with, a place to get dressed in the morning, shower, have a meal, and lay your head, you cannot easily do battle with and recover from the other things.
Housing First Initiative
The Housing First program originated by Dr. Sam Tsemberis, founder of Pathways to Housing, Inc., who recognized that before anything else can be addressed in a person’s life, they must have a home. Before, homelessness was treated as a “let’s make a deal” concept. If you go to counseling or rehab, if you do this, or you do that, we will get you into a home. Dr. Tsemberis found that persons discharged from hospitals and clinics back onto the streets suffered more and caused distrust and disillusionment.
Housing First & Veteran Homelessness
Step one always lies with the person in need of change. They must reach out for help, and thankfully, they can now find it through comprehensive programs using the Housing First Initiative. For those who may be apprehensive about asking for help, it is up to our community to remove the stigmas and provide a more straightforward path to available resources.
SSVF Grant Recipients Funded to Help Florida Veterans
SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families) is available to very low-income veterans and serves them by providing case management and supportive services to prevent the loss of a veteran’s home. If a veteran has already become homeless, SSVF assists in finding suitable housing for them and their families or rapidly re-houses them and their families. The SSVF program is funded by grants issued by the Veterans Administration to local non-profit organizations that work directly in the fight against homelessness.
Veterans Homelessness Resources
FAMILY PROMISE OF BIG BEND
TREASURE COAST HOMELESS SERVICES COUNCIL
OPERATION SACRED TRUST
ST. VINCENT DE PAUL
HOMELESS SERVICES NETWORK OF CENTRAL FLORIDA
VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA – FLORIDA