"I fought for my country. It feels good to have someone fight for me." ~ U.S. Ranger; Iraq, 2009- 2011; Homeless, 2012
First Lady Michelle Obama's call to action to end homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015 is an achievable mission if we unite as a country now. We can end chronic homelessness among veterans with the continued support from local, state and federal government working together with community partners.
While the White House through Joining Forces together with the VA and NGOs like HELP USA have reduced veteran homelessness by 50 percent since the President's 2009 election, 58,000 men and women who have served our country remain without secure shelter - and too many are at risk of homelessness due to poverty, unemployment and PTSD. More effort is needed to take full advantage of current federal funding for housing vouching and finish the job of housing homeless veterans.
HELP USA has developed €180 million of permanent supportive housing, including an integrated model of housing and vital services in partnership with the VA for veterans and their children. Service men and women returning from Afghanistan have joined veterans of Iraq, Persian Gulf and Vietnam in attractive, safe apartment residences designed to offer all the support they need and deserve to live independent healthy lives.
And veterans relying on marginal housing conditions who have slipped through the safety net can be spared homelessness thanks to innovation prevention programs like the Veteran Administration's SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families).
In less than 20 months, HELP USA has helped over 1000 Veterans in NYC and Las Vegas with the SSVF program funding allowing for an innovative holistic approach to preventing homelessness. HELP USA's professional team work with families to cover expenses that threaten housing stability such as short term rental subsidies, and help coordinate health care, and childcare, and employment and counseling services, The investment of financial and human resources has yielded impressive outcomes with more than 80% of veterans and their families remaining in stable housing for at least a year after they receive assistance.
At a time of so many intractable and complex problems at home and abroad, replicable solutions deserve continued investment and study. We know from almost 30 years of experience at HELP USA, that most everyone can thrive when treated with respect and provided opportunity.
Unable to afford rent, Juan Davila, a weapons specialist in the United States Army for a total of 18 years, slept each night in a train station until meeting a staff member of HELP USA's Newark residence for veterans. Today, Juan and his wife and daughter are leading productive lives as tenants in HELP USA's permanent residence on Clinton Hill, benefiting from the on-site services and receiving benefits from the local VA. Juan shares, "I just needed a little help to get back on my feet and take care of my family."
By joining forces with leaders and communities around the country we can provide all the help needed for veterans to secure stable housing and live with dignity.