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Steve Peck
As a Lieutenant in the 1st Marine Division near Da Nang, Vietnam, Steve Peck learned a few things about war. “ You face enemy fire, you engage the enemy. If you don’t go where the trouble is, you can’t solve the problem.”

As the CEO of U.S. VETS, Peck is still taking the fight to the front lines. “Our job as I see it is to engage the enemy at home in the U.S.—the enemy of homelessness, disillusionment, and disappointment—to let these men and women know that there is a path forward and that we
support them and are tremendously grateful for their contribution to this country and the sacrifices they have made,” he says.

Peck’s involvement with veterans’ issues began more than 20 years ago, when as a filmmaker, he worked on a documentary about a group of homeless veterans living on the beach in Venice, Calif. Back then, there were few services for veterans outside of the VA, and almost none for homeless vets. Since its establishment in 1992, U.S. VETS has grown
to include 11 facilities in six states and the District of Columbia, serving more than 2,000 veterans each day; in one year they will help 3,000 veterans find housing and more than 1,000 veterans obtain full-time employment.

That kind of help was not available for returning Vietnam vets. Without strong support from family, friends or government, many vets drifted into homelessness and addiction, like Jim, one of the vets Peck met on Venice beach more than 20 years ago. Jim had serious PTSD from combat in Vietnam, so he had a hot temper and got into a lot of bar fights. He hit the wrong guy once and the guy pulled a gun and shot him, paralyzing him from the waist down. He also had a Silver Star, given to him by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was living
in his car when Peck got to know him. “His wheelchair was parked outside the car door and his Silver Star was in the glove compartment. I became a social worker to save guys like him,” Peck said.

After earning his degree in social work from USC, Peck referred the first veteran to Westside Residence Hall, the first site developed by Cantwell Anderson in the early 90s. He has not stopped since. In 1996 he joined U.S. VETS full time as Director of Community Development. In August of 2010 he was named President and CEO.

Entries by Steve Peck

LA's Homeless Count is Sobering

(0) Comments | Posted May 10, 2016 | 2:24 PM

The latest Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority annual homeless count is sobering and bittersweet.

As a homeless veterans' advocate, I'm heartened by the decrease in homelessness among veterans, and proud of the contribution U.S.VETS has made, helping more than a thousand male and female veterans find homes, jobs, and a...

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Why the VA's New Tune About Services for Homeless Vets Is Music to My Ears

(0) Comments | Posted February 4, 2016 | 6:51 PM

VA Secretary Bob McDonald was in Los Angeles last week to unveil the much-anticipated master plan for the West L.A. Veterans Affairs campus and sat for an interview with KPCC, one of our local public radio stations.

As you would expect, he's enthusiastic about the master plan. After...

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Homeless 'Functional Zero' -- We've Stopped the Bleeding, But We Haven't Healed the Wound

(0) Comments | Posted November 23, 2015 | 4:37 PM

The image we remember when someone has climbed a mountain is the photo at the top: the exhausted and exhilarated climbers planting the flag at the summit. What we don't often think about is the long descent back to safety. On the world's highest peaks, the majority of climbing-related fatalities...

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We Still Don't Have an Answer to Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans

(1) Comments | Posted September 24, 2015 | 2:34 PM

All of us who have been in combat have memories we would like to forget. I don't remember every single day of my service in Vietnam, not by any means, but images from the times when I might have died, but by pure chance didn't, are in permanent residence in...

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Why Garcetti's Missed Deadline Misses the Point About Los Angeles' Homeless Veterans

(2) Comments | Posted September 2, 2015 | 5:58 PM

There's a saying we used in the Marine Corps: "Marines never retreat, we only attack in a different direction."

I was reminded of that expression last week, after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he would need to recalibrate his goal to end veterans' homelessness by the end of...

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Veterans' Homelessness -- There is No Finish Line

(0) Comments | Posted May 22, 2015 | 3:45 PM

On the 40th anniversary of the fall of Vietnam, Steve Peck addressed a forum of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. It might have been four decades since American troops left Saigon, but the symposium was titled, "What Does the End of Veterans' Homelessness Look Like?"His edited remarks were as...

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Ending Vet Homelessness in LA: Is the Finish Line in Sight?

(3) Comments | Posted February 4, 2015 | 4:02 PM

A casual observer might have thought last week that the problem of thousands of homeless veterans living on the streets of Los Angeles was just about behind us.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a record 3,375 veterans had been placed in housing in 2014 and reiterated his promise to...

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'Housing First' - The Imaginary Panacea to the Problem of Homeless Veterans

(2) Comments | Posted November 6, 2013 | 11:47 AM

Homelessness is not simply a person without a place to sleep at night.

Homelessness is the end result of a whole series of events that result in diminished capacity, loss of self-determination, most often loss of employment, loss of family, isolation, poverty, and lack of self-esteem, all leading to...

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The Toll of Turning a Blind Eye to Drug Use During Military Service

(30) Comments | Posted September 4, 2012 | 9:06 AM

We know how to train soldiers for war. We do it well. We teach them to embrace new rules of conduct in order to survive in combat. We are much better at preparing them for a life at war than we are at preparing them for life after they return....

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Celebrate Veterans' Success

(0) Comments | Posted August 21, 2012 | 12:27 PM

Recently, Vice President Joe Biden stopped by the U.S.VETS Las Vegas, leaving behind a lot of solid encouragement -- and his tie.

The vice president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, joined in one of the life skills workshops at the Las Vegas site, one of 11 U.S.VETS...

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L.A. Stand Down to Assemble Vital Services for Female Vets

(0) Comments | Posted July 3, 2012 | 11:43 AM

When I was doing homeless outreach in 1993 I helped Navy veteran Linda Miles-Celistan off skid row.

Now she's on our board of directors helping lead U.S.VETS, the nation's largest nonprofit devoted to helping homeless and at-risk veterans.

She once did anything on the street to buy drugs and alcohol....

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Karl Marlantes: Scholar and Warrior

(0) Comments | Posted May 31, 2012 | 3:52 PM

It wasn't until several years after Karl Marlantes returned home from Vietnam that he realized he wasn't acting like everybody else. "People told me I was doing really weird things," Karl recalls, "but I kept telling myself 'there's no problem, no problem.' It's amazing how unconscious I was of it."...

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Bringing Vets Back Inside the Wire (UPDATE)

(2) Comments | Posted May 16, 2012 | 7:13 PM

UPDATE: This post incorrectly reported that Joseph Perez-Marchese suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. U.S.VETS has no knowledge that Mr. Perez-Marchese was ever diagnosed with PTSD. We regret the error.

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