WASHINGTON, DC, Feb 17 – The respite of peacetime, when members of our armed forces are relieved of the task of fighting our wars, can lull us into forgetting those who have faced combat. In particular, it’s easy to forget that the streets of our cities, big and small, are what too many veterans call home. The numbers of America’s homeless veterans may have decreased over the years, but a shameful number of them are still adrift. And now, ordinary Americans are coming to the rescue.
It’s difficult, at best, to know the numbers of homeless veterans in the U.S. at any given time, but at least one headcount shows that while fewer vets are living on the streets today still, too many are still living a rough life. “Nationally, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States has declined by nearly half since 2010, with more than 920,000 veterans and their family members permanently housed or prevented from becoming homeless,” says the Hines VA hospital. Does that mean there’s another 920,000 or so veterans out there who still are without shelter too many nights of the week?
Another assessment, according to the Military Times, shows that while six percent of our population is made up of vets, they make up eight percent of America’s homeless.
Whatever the numbers, part of the problem is bureaucracy.
Take the case of Bobby Cline, who lives in Nashville, TN. He served seven years in the U.S. Army, and when the pandemic broke out, he, like many others, was in dire need. Cline is a single dad who was living paycheck to paycheck. Covid made it more and more difficult to earn a living. He needed cash. So he reached out to the Code of Vets organization for help, and he got the funds he needed to hold him over in less than a day.
He told Fox News, “I was getting ready to have to make huge decisions to either go back to where I came from in Florida to be around a support system for my son’s sake or be homeless.”
Gretchen Smith, the founder of Code of Vets, says the government needs to learn a lesson – how to operate in real-time. “When a veteran is going homeless, why not try to keep him in his apartment and instead of telling him to go homeless, and then we’ll try to assist you.”
Smith created her Code of Vets organization to honor her Vietnam Veteran dad, Sgt. Danny E. Smiley who died as the result of PTSD [Post traumatic stress disorder]. “I do it to honor my dad. I do it for my brothers and sisters in arms. It just brings me such joy. I don’t think there’s a paycheck big enough out there that could really touch how I feel when we talk to our veterans after we help them.”
And then there is J.T. Liddell, himself a veteran who found himself homeless. Liddell did all the right things when, after three tours of combat in Afghanistan, he decided to up his education credentials and enrolled in an M.B.A. program at George Washington University. He earned his degree and landed a job at JP Morgan, a leading investment banking firm. Yet he found himself sleeping in his rented minivan. “I was basically homeless at that point. I was at fairly rock bottom,” he told the school’s online news service, GWToday.
It was an awakening for him, but Liddell didn’t brood for long; instead, he decided to take matters into his own hands and create an outreach organization called Promenade. His initiative in creating a vehicle for helping veterans to help themselves has not gone unnoticed. Google was the first major corporation to help fund Promenade, and soon thereafter, offers of support began to come Liddell’s way from the likes of Amazon, IBM, and the Center for Civic Innovation. He said it validated his efforts. “Having Google associated with our brand has been huge. If I can say that a Black veteran built this tech solution, and we’ve been funded by Google, that changes the conversation drastically.”
Surely our veterans need the help of the government in transitioning from active duty to the workaday world of civilians. But it was not the government that made America great; it was – and is — ordinary citizens with not-so-ordinary, do-it-yourself solutions.
The Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC], for example, treasures its Veterans and has a history of providing practical assistance wherever possible. Its advocacy arm, AMAC Action, focuses on the legislative needs of veterans, and its AMAC Foundation provides useful live and online resources.
Most recently, AMAC Action joined 36 other conservative organizations in support of a Senate bill entitled Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act, which is focused on the right of veterans to choose their own counsel and representatives to aid them in navigating the bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration.
Via the association’s AMAC Foundation, it seeks to provide programs, services, and information essential to making life better for veterans. In addition to seminars covering such topics as veterans benefits and how to access them, it offers a comprehensive Veterans Resources page on its website, where keyword searches can be used to locate data on hundreds of areas in support of Veterans’ needs.
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