November 12, 2010

They served us. How are we serving them?

In honor of those who have served, I would like to take a minute on the day following Veteran’s Day to recognize the hardships many Veterans face once they return home. Many Veterans are at risk for homelessness. As of the latest count, 14.5% of D.C.’s homeless population in non-family emergency shelter are veterans. We here at Bread for the City seek to understand the issues specific to Veterans, so that we can better direct our efforts in reaching this specific portion of the homeless population.

You may be wondering what about Veterans makes them more at risk for homelessness.

A 2010 study from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness shows that veterans have high rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and sexual trauma, especially for women. Especially high rates are experienced by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, due to repeated deployments. Repeated deployments causes an increased strain in family relations and leads to an increased risk for serious injury. These factors also significantly impact a Veteran’s ability to form trusting relationships once they are back home. Social isolation often puts individuals at higher risk for homelessness. PTSD can contribute to substance abuse problems and relapse. Mental health problems, such as TBI or otherwise, can result in cognitive impairment. Difficulties in social relationships and difficulties in controlling temper or impulses could affect potential for employment and retention of jobs.

There are exciting local and national initiatives under way to support Veterans, such as the recent news that 405 veterans have been placed in Permanent Supportive Housing in the last year and the expansion of federal funding for services for homeless families.

What we want is more success stories like Mr. Klink, Veteran of Vietnam who suffers from PTSD. He worked with Sherita Evans a year ago and had this to say when we interviewed him for the blog:
"Sherita assisted me in getting into the place where I’m established now. When I ended up on the streets of DC, a case manager with the homeless division suggested that I could get specific help at Bread for the City. I was tired of jumping in and out of shelters. Sherita directed me to the Vet Center at Chesapeake House. And even though I didn’t meet all the criteria—I didn’t have 60 days clean—I was able to talk to the people and they were ready to give me a stable, sober environment. Today I have six months clean time and my own home."

We salute our veterans for their service to our country and we hope that we can serve them in their hardships in the honorable manner they once served our country.

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