Dispatches from the Fight to End Veteran Homelessness

One of VA’s most important missions is also among its most challenging: ending Veteran homelessness once and for all. The goal has been set for the end of 2015, and the numbers seem to be heading in the right direction; last year, Veteran homelessness fell by 12 percent, thanks to an infusion of prevention services.

This isn’t an initiative that will succeed at just the federal level, but locally as well. Two recent stories highlight what can happen when all levels begin to meet mission.

The first, from the Rapid City Journal, details a VA program that intakes homeless Veterans and puts them to work at VA national cemeteries. The paid positions don’t just offer steady income, but something worth holding onto as Veterans work to lift themselves back up, as an Iraq Vet in the program described:

“It’s given me a sense of pride,” he said. “I was kind of blowing in the wind.” He also plans to continue to use the skill set at a job after the year is up, even if it means leaving the Black Hills.

“I love this program; I’m intent on doing this job,” Kurttila said.

The second article from The Washington Post helps illustrate how local organizations are making an impact despite challenges that can delay assistance, like proper identification for homeless Veterans:

This is a common problem for homeless people. “You need ID to get ID,” said Jan-Michael Sacharko, director of development for A-SPAN. “You have to establish you’re a resident of Arlington, which is a bit of an oxymoron — how do you establish you’re a homeless resident of Arlington?”

After many months, enough paperwork was collected to get Maas’s birth certificate from California.

Taken together, these articles show progress is hard fought and can be won, but challenges are still ahead to roll that counter down to zero.

If you’re a homeless Veteran or family member, or at risk of becoming homeless, please give our help line a call at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838), and visit our homeless Veteran site for more information on housing assistance, health care options, and more.

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23 Comments to “Dispatches from the Fight to End Veteran Homelessness”

  1. IMO from what I have seen and read about there’s a big problem in LA County, CA. It seems there are acres of land deeded to veterans which has numerous buildings and other facilities, however. the keeper of the gate is not the VA it’s the rich and famous who have blocked the way of some 50,000 + homeless veterans. DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY, BETRAYAL!!

    RLTW

    • george says:

      I just moved to louisville ky, and the grant per deim program is a joke!! After walking spending the night at the greyhound station…trying to keep from getting kicked out because i had no ticket. Pouring down rain the next morning pulling all my luggage around behind me, and people pointing at me saying.. look at the freak!!
      This one place you are required to have a tb test before they will let you talk to the vet rep about grant per deim, then after being soaked to the bone and finally talking to the grant per deim guy.. i was told NO beds available!!!
      I had to cross the river into indiana to find a shelter where i did not have to lug my travel bags around. Talking about being humiliated!!!

  2. Jesse says:

    What about those of us that can’t find work? I’ve applied to VA positions and many other positions with companies I know I can do the jobs for. I still can’t get work, let alone pay my ex wife her child support money, what about people like me? Hell I bust my ass to scrape by and am so behind on everything and getting deeper and deeper in debt.
    I don’t want a freaking hand out, I want a job that pays decent and some benefits would be nice. Hell I had to enlist in the reserves just to help make ends meet and hope I get deployed someday just to get caught up. WTF

    • David Hughey says:

      Jesse has a valid question and I would like to help him. I consider myself a success story on the finding employment with the government, as result of the training I received writing and submitting application via USAJOBs during my retirement TAMPs at CLNC. Perhaps someone could help Jesse develop the skills needed to submit a successful application.

    • I hear ya, can’t find a job to save my life and am also in deep. I enlisted in school under the VA program. Didn’t even know it existed. While looking, it would be a good idea to go to school, so you at least have that to put on your res. For bens, apply at VA. of course you probably already know workforce, but they put vets first. Good luck.
      Tim Dominique, Army Veteran, AAS

  3. Gerald P. Robinson says:

    I was in the Army National Guard from October 1965 to June 1971 when I got an honorable discharge. My birthday is July 11, 1942. Would there be any benefits for my service? I am now 70 years of age.

    Gerald Robinson
    122 Goodman St.
    Troutman, NC 28166

    • David Hughey says:

      Gerald,

      The first question is did you serve on active duty for over 180 days. Many former members of the reserves joined via enlistment programs that simply required attending drill without any recruit training or formal MOS training, which would give them enough active duty time to actually be considered veterans. Then you have to apply for benefits to the VA, who will determine your benefits.

      Dave

    • E Wyatt says:

      Gerald, do you have any disabilities, service connected, on your record? If so, you can use the huge VA medical facility in Salisbury, NC for medical care. If not, you may want to visit there anyway to determine your status. Note: I don’t know how far you live from Salisbury, so it may not be practical.

    • It was a time of war, so probably. Check with the VA. This is just a sound board, you have to apply for the bens.

  4. Gord says:

    “Veterans Affairs alters conclusions of medical reports to deny Disability Benefits”

    Ex Canadian Forces Member. While serving in the Canadian Forces imagine 16 months away from your family, having occasional numbness in your feet after patrolling all day with 40 – 50 lbs of gear, then one day you feel a strange sensation in your chest, your heart beat is irregular, all of a sudden you feel en enormous weight on every part of your body and you collapse onto your knees, unable to lift your arms, your breathing slows and blackness begins to narrow your vision …. you wake up disoriented and with a sharp pain in your shoulder. A few months later your driving to work, you begin to experience stabbing abdominal pains, your hands and feet go numb, instantaneously sweat begins to pour off your head, you feel nauseated and then your breathing slows. Suddenly your entire body is charged with electricity and every muscle begins to contract, then your head and chest are resting against the steering wheel, you are confused and uncertain of your location. 20 months after leaving the Canadian Forces you’ve spent more than 4 months in bed, called 911 on 4 different occasions and spent more than 30 days in multiple hospitals while neurologists, cardiologists, respiratory and gastrointestinal specialists run hundreds of tests and invasive procedures. Without any clear cause you become short of breath just standing up, you drop utensils, phones, glasses and other items and are unable to button up your shirts because you can’t feel the ends of your fingers. You are frequently unable to drive or walk when the dizziness and nausea becomes severe. Without any notice you suddenly feel extremely fatigued and your legs and arms become weak and you have to lye down wherever you are, even in a vehicle. Occasionally you feel a strange sensation down your spine and collapse on the floor, completely paralyzed. These are just a few of the challenges I now face, here is my story:
    I was on duty with the Canadian Forces in 2009 when I received the H1N1 shot (AREPANRIX by GSK GlaxoSmithKline) and had a severe adverse reaction resulting in PERMANENT symptoms: dizziness, vertigo, irregular heart rhythms, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, pain and cramps, numbness in hands and feet, vision problems and severe fatigue. My physical fitness changed from special forces fit to that of a 70 year old in a matter of days. I advised the military doctors that my change in health occurred immediately following the H1N1 vaccination and although they noted my concerns on 8 different occasions,…

  5. Spc. Jeremiah Clifford says:

    I am a homeless veteran. I am a divorced veteran that has had everything important in life stripped from him, including my only baby girl. I Have been homeless since 2009. Since my military service my quality of life is plummeting to hell. I self medicated myself, while the VA tried helping with my Depression, Anxiety, Sleeping Disorder and potential PTSD, among other issues that are also a direct result of my military service. The only thing I am proud of is my Army Service, in spite of getting overlooked, misdiagnosed and treated like a homeless. I have not held a job longer than 7 or 8 months since leaving the active Army in 1996. I was divorced and my family was taken away from me for issues that were my fault because I can’t function like a normal person. I applied over 2 years ago for disability benefits. It took them about a year and a half to turn me down and then reapplied and was eventually given a 10% service connected disability for a friendly fire incident that caused most of my problems I live with everyday. My service connected disability was for Tinnitus, just one of the claims I applied for over 2 yrs ago that was a direct result from the friendly fire issue I was involved in, but my other, more serious claims from this same friendly fire incident have yet to awarded, due to lack of evidence that my own country almost killed me during a routine field training blast that was fired from a howitzer that was not facing the live fire impact area, and almost killed several of us. My life as i knew it, changed forever. I began self medicating and became a blackout drunk and someone that can’t function in today’s society or hold a job for any length of time because of these issues. I was told to find this evidence and no one where this incident occurred has been there since 1996. Commands change and people ETS or go to their next duty station. I don’t have the clearance to find anyone willing to acknowledge this travesty ever occurred, let alone admit that lives were almost physically taken that day, but my life was taken from me in every other sense of the word. The records and proof is out there but i can’t get this info on my own. If the disability people can’t find it, then how am i expected to find proof when i am now, no longer in the service. There is proof out there that can back up these claims, but no one seems to care, except me. I have not been able to function as a normal person since getting out in 1996. The Houston VA has been treating me for depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and other problems since 1997. While the…

    • Constance says:

      If you know any of the names of others who witnessed the friendly fire event give their names and the unit you were with. The VA may be able to look up those names and maybe one of them applied for the same incident and they may have had access to more info. Give as many names as you can and it would be great if you had a ssn. If there were any casualties make sure you give their name too.

      • I'm Done says:

        PLEASE. you will be told to provide info, although it is their fault records have been lost, destroyed and misplaced and just because it takes a lot to research documents, information, etc. they definitely didn’t call me for ant clarification.

  6. Ex WAC says:

    I was in the WAC years ago. Recently within the past several years after not getting a teacher’s contract renewed, I found myself without proper funds and needed real help. The V.A. seems to help men more than women. Even with work therapy programs, the men go through it and get help, residencies placed on VA campuses and women are helped very little, if any. The drug programs are the ones supported the most where men weave in and out on a continuous basis. I would not mind if they were really rehabilitated, but many know how to get maximum resources while their families are neglected or supported by another government agency.

  7. Elijah Asher says:

    The alleged official VA policy to “end” veteran homelessness by Secretary Shinseki is a complete sham and pretense. Very little has, in fact, been done to alleviate this crisis, which has existed since the end of World War II. The knowingly and materially false statements set forth in the above VA public relations blurb are entirely false. There has NOT been a 12% decrease in veteran homelessness, but it has in fact increased. The reason VA asserts such self-serving statistics such as this is because there has Never been a genuine, Empirically-based study or effort by VA to ascertain the true total number of homeless veterans nationally, and many who have now gone to Canada for better social service support.

    There is no way that VA could even hope to end veteran homelessness by 2015, just 3 years away. And again, there are no statistics or facts cited which remotely support this shamelessly false assertion. Said another way, VA implies here that it should reduce the remaining 88% of homeless veterans in just 3 years from now, when its track record to date, after 4 years of such policy-initiative, has produced a result of a mere 12%. (See how VA’s asserted statistics speak their own condemnation?) Nothing is stated to show how this accelerated reduction will happen. Or how 12% in over 4 years will convert to 100% in the remaining 3 years to 2015. Thus, a mere 3% annual reduction to date from 2009, will somehow accelerate to nearly 30% annually over the next 3 years. This glaring discrepancy is unexplained and goes begging for a sensible conversion rate.

  8. Elijah Asher says:

    The preceding comments criticism is only consistent with the historical predisposition by VA to engage in dishonesty and lie to the American public, by extending false hopes and assurances where none really exist. Right now, in the Tampa Bay area alone, mainly Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, the waiting list by the over 6000 “recorded” homeless veterans for HUD-VASH vouchers is over one year. And many veterans there will join in the ranks of the veteran suicide crisis for this reason alone. Many will die before ever seeing themselves in any home of their own. Instead of using monies given VA by Congress for veteran homelessness to get veterans into self-possessed and controlled housing of their own, VA continues to divert Congressional appropriations to VA homeless “programs” and alleged “medical support” features, even though there is no real evidence that such diversion of funding is truly necessary or producing results. It merely allows VA to increase expenditures where no real results are achieved. Even worse, although getting veterans into their own housing is the chief method to end homelessness, VA has not made strides along that goal in any real, measurable ways. That is why VA continues to pay per diem and other sizable amounts to homeless shelters and the like to “keep” these veterans in their state of homelessness. With the recent VA scandal for the $9 million spent by VA on the Orlando “training conference” in a plush resort hotel, VA could have built and staffed at least 3 major homeless veteran supportive housing projects and taken hundreds of veterans off the streets and the pathway to suicide.

    One of the worst features of the VA homeless treatment policies and practices is the erroneous presupposition that most homeless veterans have serious drug or alcohol issues needing treatment Prior to being placed in self-maintained housing. This is not true, especially for veterans over 40 who make uo the greater part of all homeless veteran. Instead , VA continues to keep veterans in privately operated shelters where they are subjected to all manner of complications just having to deal daily with non-veteran homeless persons who do have significant substance abuse issues. By paying to keep veterans homeless in such shelters, it actually increases the risk that they, too, will succumb to substance abuse to alleviate their intense suffering being in a state of ostracization and feeling unappreciated, unwanted, and most of all, unloved or truly cared for by a bureaucracy that continually lies about its advances to end homelessness…

  9. Elijah Asher says:

    Of the now 27 million veterans in the American population, only about 6 million are enrolled in any type of VA medical service delivery or other VA benefit program. Thus, 21 million veterans choose not to use the VA for Anything. Said another way, 75% of American veterans do not use the VA at all. If it is such a truly laudable, wonderful medical and disability benefit system, why is that 75% of all existing veterans choose not to use it in any way at all? Do they know something the rest of us do not? Or does this statistic speak its own condemnation of the VA bureaucracy?

    • Buddy says:

      Your one angry Elf. 75% don’t use the VA for health care because they have jobs that provide health care via insurance. And the number of vets is 23 million.

    • I applied for Medical Benefits, because I am unemployed. When I was notified I was approved, she asked, why did you wait so long to apply. I never needed to use my VA Bens (except the home loan program) until now. Some vets have jobs and are doing just fine and don’t need the VA right now; more power to them. I wish I was in their shoes. I’m glad I have these bens now. From what I have heard, don’t look for a hand out, look for a hand up.

  10. Vet Father says:

    I gave my daughter the number shown above, because she’s down on her luck. She served in the military for 7 years, so I thought I could get her some help. I’ve helped her financially all I can. I’ve given her more money that I really could part with, so it’s not like we didn’t try other things before she went to the VA. This is what she wrote to me after I had convinced her that the VA would help her:

    “Today I went down to the Homeless Vet Program office. The young lady I spoke with asked me about my situation and advised me to try the Red Cross first to see if I qualified for them to pay my rent for a few months so I can stay in my apartment. To get housing through the VA, I have to go through the eviction process, actually get evicted from my apartment, and then move into a bed, in shared housing, with other female vets. She said the VA works with different agencies and I have to fit a certain criteria in order to get a place to stay, because the money is supplied by grants. Maybe it works the same way college grants do. She said it helps that I’m a woman – they make more of an effort to house female vets. She said it would also help if I was a substance abuser or something like that, but I had already said I wasn’t.

    In summary, the VA didn’t say they wouldn’t help me, but it’s not as simple as, “okay, how soon do you need a bed?” I guess she mentioned Red Cross because she assumes I’ve got a house full of stuff and I’d rather stay in my apartment if I can. The VA won’t help me stay in my apartment. Also, she’s possibly changing jobs this month so she told me she may have to hand me off to someone else, but she doesn’t want me to “fall through the cracks”. That wasn’t very encouraging to hear, but whatever.

    Either way, whether I were to go with Red Cross or the Homeless Program through VA, nothing’s guaranteed. I have to fit the grant criteria in order to qualify for them to house me. So that’s the verdict so far. I’m supposed to call Red Cross tomorrow and then call her back with an update.”

    They referred her to the Red Cross. REALLY???? So where is that $100 million the VA is pouring into the homeless program? Yet all we hear from SOME politicians is that benefits need to be cut. This makes me SO sad . . . I’m a Veteran too. I served for 31 years. What happens when I go broke trying to help my daughter and we BOTH need help from the VA?

    • Alex Horton says:

      Sir, I’m passing your contact information to our homeless support office to see if they can assist.

    • I'm Done says:

      The Veterans Administration AND politicians are so full of lies. I left Army 1997 honorably. Homeless in 2001 and VA could not/would not help. Disability is a joke. They make you “beg” for it. Fast forward to present…….. Finally got some disability; homeless program is a joke because you must have an alcohol or drugs problem to get help. Crisis hotline is a joke. They will make you more despondent and discouraged. I have come into contact with so many unprofessional and heartless individuals in the past 2 years! It is scarey. Each person you speak with over the phone or in person provides a different response to the most basic and common scenarios. Correspondence is sloppy. Denied 100% a month ago and then Vocational Rehabilitation says “You can’t work or go to school”. Then tells me to “resubmit”. What the he……………… I am not a “conspiracy theory” type person, BUT I swear you would think all VA workers are trained to do whatever it takes to make you quit, give up and just wait to DIE.