Submitted by Barbara Washburn, National Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Committee Northwestern Division Chair
We hear in the news nearly every day about the large number of homeless veterans. What can you do to raise awareness of this continuing epidemic? This article will present several ideas and resources to help you formulate a plan of action.
You can utilize social media and newsletters to share information about facilities that provide support for homeless veterans, such as homeless shelters and local food banks. Many of these facilities as well as U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers (VAMCs) offer programs for homeless veterans and are regularly in need of supplies and monetary donations. Organizing a community fundraiser that focuses on a common cause not only helps the veterans, but also raises awareness of the daily needs of the homeless.
Community members can be encouraged to participate in stand downs and health fairs sponsored by the local VAMC, which provides personal contact with homeless veterans. You can publicize suicide prevention and homeless veteran hotlines and the resources available through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA offers many great resources on its homeless veterans page at va.gov/homeless. Take several minutes to watch the video How to Help Homeless Veterans and refer to the other useful FAQs and resources on that page. Some of this material would be great to present during a meeting or as part of a public forum.
There are many facts to share about veteran homelessness through information and statistics provided on the website of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Some of the latest information indicates about 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans, roughly 40,000 on any given night.
Most importantly, work with your American Legion Family and local media to get the word out in your community through fundraisers and community awareness events. If possible, work with a homeless shelter or transitional housing unit to connect directly with the homeless veterans in your area.
It is up to all of us to remain aware of the number of homeless veterans and continue to educate others so that someday, no veteran is homeless.