Op Ed: Serving My Country Just To End Up Homeless
By Amanda M. Garcia and Geunia L. Funches
Many veterans are returning home from combat without the help to find housing, treatment, counseling or health care policies. Statistics shows that as of January 2015, there were 47,725 homeless veterans. They accounted for 11% of the homeless population. This number has dropped 4% from 2014. Of the homeless veteran population, 9% are female and 57% of the homeless veterans are white. This percentage is totally unacceptable. Our veterans’ deserve opportunities returning to the civilian world. To put it plainly, our veterans have served our country for many years just to protect us and they deserve housing, jobs, counseling, health policies, and treatment as an appreciation from the country.
Above is the current estimate of homeless veterans per state
From a veteran’s perspective, Mike Hayden who was a homeless veteran was always trying to find his next home. Veteran Mike Hayden did not know if his next place to sleep would be on a friends or family members couch, if it would be in his car, or other areas within the city he resided in. Mike knows that struggling with homelessness as a veteran is not what he should be facing. The resources Mike Hayden had available to him; he used them to get connected with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development along with the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing project. According to reporter Robert Nott, the two programs helped Mike Hayden by providing a monthly voucher to assist paying for his rent, which allowed him to get an apartment of his own.
Currently, in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Bill 425, “Homeless Veterans Reintegration Reauthorization Act” is waiting to be passed in efforts to continue with support of our veterans. The Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act will assist veterans with obtaining employment, training resources, housing and treatment programs. Not only will the bill provide the listed benefits, the bill will allow a five-year extension and provide clarification regarding eligibility of services under such programs. According to Congress, the proposal for this bill is to expedite the process of veterans’ being able to return to the workforce, and have access to other programs such as the Veteran Affairs program, Native American veterans and are receiving assistance under the Native American Housing Assistance, and veterans who are transitioning from being incarcerated.
Many veterans have given up so much to support our country. There are many veterans that have left their families behind, lost their marriages, lost their ability to think optimistically, and have given up their privilege of living a normal life. All veterans deserve the opportunity to receive training, employment, health care, counseling and housing. How can we continue to support our veterans and give them the support and assistance they deserve? We need to implement programs that can get our veterans assistance, we need to provide immediate open benefit enrollment, we need to extend training problems, and we need to offer a 10 month housing plan to veterans. Just to name a few helpful tasks.
There are many programs such as job training and employment opportunities at the Veterans Affairs being provided to veterans who have served, but it is clearly not enough with there being veteran homelessness across the United States. These current programs are limited to providing veterans with a minimal amount time to train and find employment once they return to a civilian lifestyle. It needs to be understood that our veterans have served for years at a time and they have experienced trauma of some sort and they need time to have a smooth transition back to the civilian world. Our country, state and local communities need to show support for our veterans’. We should not allow veterans’ to be homeless, they do not deserve to be treated without or left without dignity. These men and women veterans gave up a part of their life for our country which they will not be able to change or get back. It is now our time to give them the support they need. It is important we contact our Senators in office to show our support for Senate Bill 425, The Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act. It is important that we continue to give our veterans’ the support they need through programs that are available to them. Our veterans’ deserve opportunities returning to the civilian world. One of the questions is, how can we decrease the amount of homeless veterans? Homelessness for our veterans can be resolved by providing them with job and training opportunities, housing assistance, counseling and treatment.
Amanda M. Garcia is originally from Ohkay Owingeh, NM. Amanda is a graduate student focusing on her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Southern California. Amanda’s concentration is mental health with a sub-concentration in military and veteran services. Amanda is fully dedicated in advocating for a variety of populations in New Mexico, especially her hometown and surrounding communities.
Geunia Funches is a native of Edwards, Mississippi. She is currently working on her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California with a concentration in Family and Children and a sub-concentration in military and veteran services. She is motivated to advocate for the youth and military populations.