DID YOU KNOW:
- 8%.......................of homeless Veteran are women
- 33%.....................of homeless Veterans were stationed in a war zone at some time
- 40%.....................of homeless Veterans are African American or Hispanic
- 50%.....................of homeless Veterans are between the ages of 18 and 50
- 50% …………....of homeless Veterans suffer from disabilities
- 66%......................of homeless Veterans served their country for at least three years
- 66%......................of homeless Veterans have substance abuse issues
- 40,000…………...of homeless Veterans' housing compensation or pension benefits is not enough to afford decent housing
- 1.4 Million………Veterans are currently at risk for homelessness
- 2 times…………...the number of Veteran will become chronically homeless, compared to other Americans
- 4 times…………...the number of female Veterans will become homeless, compared to their male counterparts
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) the new "official" US Veteran homeless count is now just under 50,000 people, down 33% (or approximately 25,000) according to the annual “Point-in-Time Count” survey, conducted in January 2014.
This report stated that there was a drop of Veterans "sleeping on the street" (remember this term) of almost 40 percent.
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Laura Green Zeilinger stated, “As a nation, we have proven that homelessness is a problem we can solve. Communities all across the country are meeting this costly tragedy with urgency and a focus on helping all veterans and their families achieve safe and stable housing.”
The government states that by using many new policies, resources and programs, there has been "significant progress" in ending homelessness among Veterans. These policies, resources and programs include:
- "Housing First", which attempts to eliminate unnecessary prerequisites
- HUD-VASH Veteran prioritization program to help place chronic homeless Veterans first for assistance
- Homeless veteran focused outreach efforts
- Department of Veterans Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families rapid rehousing program
- Utilizing other housing and services resources to assist ineligible veterans who do not qualify for the VA’s housing programs
- Heightening early detection methods to keep currently housed Veterans from losing their housing
- Effective program monitoring to provide additional permanent housing options
- "Opening Doors", the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness
But, one contributing factor seems to be the redefining of the term “homeless”.
The definition of “homeless individual” as defined by McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (P.L. 100-77).16, Section 103(a):
An individual or family is homeless if they lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, defined to mean:
- Having a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, nor ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings. These may include:
- a car
- private or public park or campground
- an abandoned building
- bus or train station
- Living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations. These include:
- transitional housing
- hotels or motel rooms paid for by charitable institutions or government entities
- Exiting an institution (such as a jail or hospital) after a stay of 90 days or fewer, and having resided in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation prior to entering the institution
Individuals and families who meet all of the following criteria are considered Imminently Homeless if they will “imminently lose their housing,” whether it be:
- Their own housing
- Housing they are sharing with others
- A hotel or motel not paid for by a government entity
Imminent loss of housing is defined by:
- an eviction notice requiring an individual or family to leave their housing within 14 days
- a lack of resources that would allow an individual or family to remain in a hotel or motel for more than 14 days
- credible evidence that an individual or family would not be able to stay with another homeowner or renter for more than 14 days
- no subsequent residence identified
- lack the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing
According to the above definitions, and according to reliable sources within the US Military, a homeless Veteran, “Couch Surfing” (staying with friends, relatives or alike), is not homeless until he leaves and cannot find another couch to sleep on. Even more disturbing is conflicting reports from non-government groups that are directly involved with the fight against homelessness and homeless Veterans. One such group is the non-profit company, Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness.
In their recent 2014 report, over 5,500 Veterans were still identified as homeless in Michigan. Again, review the graphic above that lists the total Veteran homeless count for Michigan as 1,122. The group's report continued to state “Veteran homelessness continues to increase as soldiers return home from war and outreach improves. Female veteran homelessness increased by 3% from 2013 to 2014 (11% to 14% ).”
MICHIGAN'S HOMELESS VETERAN NUMBERS
Additional research and factual evidence demonstrates the Michigan situation. Below is a county by county count of the homeless Veteran population in Michigan as reported by the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness – 2014 Report.
THOSE THAT SERVE...DESERVE...BETTER
They enlist as young men and women; go through rigorous mental, physical and disciplined training, take pride in their duty to our country, their branch of service and one another, putting others first, defending us, “We the People” of our United States.
When their service ends, most return to civilian life, reintegrate and assimilate with little effort. They are able to use that mental, physical and especially disciplined training to prosper in this great country of our... For them, with God's grace, everything falls into place. They return to a loving and caring family, perhaps a pre-established career path and, a clean, comfortable place to call home.
But some aren’t so fortunate. They return to a changed world, a world that doesn't understand their fears, needs and troubles. They are misunderstood, sometimes mistreated or ignored. We don’t understand what they’ve gone through. They may have survived an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blast, watched their comrades and friends maimed or killed or had to take an enemy's life…and it now haunts them!
We've all seen them; in the news, on the street, in shelters or huddled under bridges. Many have trust issues, some have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), some are missing limbs or are physically scared with shrapnel wounds or burn scars, others come back to broken homes and lives, some, addicted to prescription meds and spiral downward finding themselves unemployed, unappreciated, destitute, homeless and alone…with only distant memories, of unity, camaraderie and valor.
These are our warrior heroes that need our help; cut-off from their units and society, they don’t know what to do, or where to go. The VA and other government agencies provide some help. Some find it, many don’t. Hopeless and seemingly helpless, they quietly live in the shadows.
Suffice it to say, no one organization can definitively identify the homeless Veteran population given strict or more liberal definitions. So some say "We don't even know what we are dealing with!" or “What can we do about it?”, others say “It’s not our problem or our fault." At the OPERATION: COME H.O.M.E., we say, "We know there is a problem, we know what we can do about it, and...it may not be our fault, but it is our problem to fix!”. Through our affiliations with the Dream Centers of Michigan's Veterans Housing Initiative, and we will be part of the solution to directly provide permanent, sustainable housing for our national heroes, the United States Veterans.
With over 1200 identified homeless Veterans in Southeastern Michigan’s metropolitan area, and more than 15% directly in Macomb and Oakland county, Pontiac becomes a central hub location for our homeless heroes. Pontiac provides close and convenient vital Veteran resources such as; the Pontiac VA Outpatient Clinic on Woodward Ave., the local VFW and AMVET posts off of Cesar Chavez Blvd, easy access to bus and train transportation and more!
Join us in supporting our efforts to raise the funds that will provide excellent permanent housing for those Veterans that are currently truly homeless and help keep our returning men and woman from entering the confusing statistical homeless population.
Please, consider donating your highly valued and needed resources, whether time or money or both...and please remember us and our Veterans in prayer...this is the best resource we can provide!
Together, we can "DO SOMETHING!"
Thank you in advance!