Submitted by Linsey Shay, Program Manager, and Laura Wengert, Case Manager, Supportive Services for Veteran Families
They fight for America – putting their lives on the line to secure our freedom. But an increasing number of American veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come home and end up living a life on the street, homeless. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, 12% of the homeless adult population are veterans and women veterans are the fastest growing segment of the homeless veteran population.
Thanks to a grant received from the Veterans Affairs Administration in October of 2013, The Salvation Army in Central Ohio will serve 100 veterans and families with vets in the household each year. Our goal is to serve 65 in Rapid Re-Housing and 35 in Homeless Prevention. Serving and identifying homelessness vets in the rural area has been challenging, but with the constant outreach and collaboration with other service providers, our referrals are really beginning to pick up. The Salvation Army is the only organization in Region 10 (and Marion County) to receive the grant and serve this specific population.
Our program is designed around the Housing First model in which we will work with eligible participants even with zero income. We provide intensive case management services to assist with locating appropriate housing, but then also to increase income while in the program. We understand transportation can be a barrier for a lot of clients in the rural counties so we set up appointments with the clients in places that are accessible: in-home, local libraries, and Veteran Service Organizations, etc. The program provides a wide range of other financial assistance as well to address barriers and help stabilize the family in order to be successful once our services have run their course.
Because many of our veterans report issues with substance abuse, physical health problems, PTSD, and isolation, we have to work even harder to find supportive services. We do see quite a lot of strengths with these individuals and families as well. They have incredible stories and skill sets that are equally incredible. These veterans are also very resilient, hard working and diligent in pursuing the goals we have set up in home visits.
“I think what I like most about my job is hearing the stories that these veterans have to tell.” says Wengert. “And getting to encourage them and thank them for how they contribute to their community.”
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DEMOGRAPHICS OF HOMELESS VETERANS
- 12% of the homeless adult population are veterans
- 20% of the male homeless population are veterans
- 68% reside in cities, 32% reside in suburban/rural areas
- 51% of individual homeless veterans have disabilities
- 50% have serious mental illness
- 70% have substance abuse problems
- 50% are age 51 or older, compared to 19% non-veterans