This Veterans Day, How to Honor Those Who Have Served: See Their Struggles and Support Solutions
Each Veterans Day our country comes together to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices of those who have served our nation’s military. And while it is important to set aside moments for that recognition, far too many veterans have nowhere to go home to when the parade ends and the fireworks fade.
Only 7% of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly 13% of the homeless adult population are veterans.
Those who have served in our armed forces are at a higher risk of experiencing difficulties such as addiction, unemployment and divorce at higher rates than the broader U.S. population. In addition to senior citizens retired from service, younger veterans accustomed to a life of military routine may experience difficulty acclimating once they emerge from service, putting them at greater risk for housing instability. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 40,056 veterans are homeless on any given night. Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness.
We are inspired to see that on the whole, the number of homeless veterans is declining – but there is so much more that needs to be done as both retired veterans and younger veterans transition from active duty and military service:
- Veterans need access to affordable housing and relevant services. In April 2023, PCCI and other partners including Mercy Housing SE opened the Thrive Sweet Auburn development to offer affordable housing, along with other services, to help residents stabilize their lives. Currently, 25 of the 170 residents are veterans. Located on site, First Step Staffing assists with job search and placement; Project Open Hand offers nutrition classes and healthy food baskets to residents; and Community Advance Practice Nurses (CAPN) will offer healthcare services. We see our partnership with the Atlanta VA as an essential relationship in this mission; with the second largest allotment of housing choice vouchers in the country, it is paving the path for veterans to find subsidized, stable housing in Georgia. These kinds of coordinated and relevant resources, provided with dignity, can help veterans build community and stability.
- Agencies and organizations need to offer easy access to opportunities for veterans to continue their education and secure good jobs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides funding through a Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant that enables us to assist with housing solutions for as many as 280 households this year. Additionally, the VA’s “Shallow Subsidy” initiative enabled PCCI to coordinate locally to help veterans maximize their income and find stability to transition into self sufficiency and financial independence. The program empowers veterans to go back to school and find higher paying jobs. It funded our work to develop longer-term relationships and trust so that we can offer personalized care and services when veterans need help navigating challenging times.
- Communities need to come together and offer veterans targeted, relevant services. Organizations such as Atlanta Legal Aid are answering that call by connecting veterans with legal assistance to navigate landlord/tenant issues, benefits claims, employment compensation claims and other obstacles that can contribute to housing instability.
- There needs to be less red tape and more coordination so that veterans can get the help they need and deserve–faster. For example, SSVF offers a useful service – HC Navigator – that supports and advocates for veterans to have access to healthcare, helping them navigate complex systems to connect with free or sliding scale resources.
PCCI is proud of the work we have done since our founding to help veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness–and we are ready to do more. While federal funding and programs are absolutely essential, implementing those funds takes time and resources. Building trust with individuals who have experienced the trauma of service requires patience and kindness.
That is why operational support for organizations like PCCI and the many others who are helping our nation’s veterans is critical. As you wave your flag and sing patriotic songs this Veterans Day, we hope you will consider taking the next step–and donate to the organizations that are doing the hard work of upholding our nation’s commitment to honor the service of every veteran.
If you or someone in your life is a veteran experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing your housing, please email SSVF@pccihome.org or contact (470) 645-3220 to complete a screening.