One of the populations most at-risk for homelessness and addiction is veterans. This is sad but true. These men (and women) gave so much for our country. Yet they end up homeless, poor, and addicted. Our hearts break for these wounded warriors. Wounds that can be physical, social, spiritual, or psychological.
Here are some chilling statistics. Every night in the United States, there are 76,000 veterans who are homeless. This is considered a conservative estimate. From a different perspective: only about 8% of all American are homeless. But nearly 20% of all people suffering from homelessness are veterans. So basically, veterans are much more likely to be homeless than other Americans. (source)
Why do so many veterans find themselves homeless? Well, it’s a complex situation. Veterans are affected by the same big issues as others: finding affordable housing, making a livable income, and accessing health care.
But veterans also deal with special issues. Many suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and substance abuse. These two conditions make it even harder to keep stable employment and housing. In addition, most housing aid from the government and others is designed for families and single mothers. In contrast, most homeless veterans are single, male, and without dependents. This makes it even harder to get help.
All of these facts and statistics show that veterans need our care and support. Veterans without a home, with PTSD, or with a substance addiction need even more care. They need counseling, job transition, recovery classes, and education. They also need spiritual support. Only with all these elements can a veteran hope to break the cycle of addiction and homelessness.
That’s why we work so hard with our one-year, residential, full-service Spiritual Recovery Program. We know that simply giving people food and shelter won’t solve the problem. These veterans need help making deep, long-lasting changes in their lives.
Yesterday, a retired Air Force Captain emailed us. He recently talked with a young, homeless Iraq war veteran who was at a VA psychiatric ward. The young veteran said that “Helping Up is the best shelter in [Baltimore].” We are so proud to hear such positive feedback from our veterans. Praise God for the work he is already doing to help veterans recover. But it’s up to us to continue and expand that work.
Do you know any stories of veterans who have struggled to transition back to civilian life?