I don’t give cash to folks living on the streets when they ask me for a handout. I do ask them if they are a Vet and, if so, I know how to give them a hand up out of homelessness. After listening to their stories and letting them know that I care, I connect each one to special help.
I give them a card with information about how to reach qualified, caring responders from the Department of Veterans Affairs. In fact, anyone concerned about the welfare of a Vet can call 1-800-273-8255 to talk, chat online at http://veteranscrisisline.net/, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
These responders do more than listen; they mobilize and connect Veterans to supportive services that are all focused on getting them back on their feet. The Veterans Administration, HUD, local governmental organizations and nonprofits work together to create a blanket of help providing many hands that reach out to pull each individual and their families back up. Everyone finally realizes that Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Just sending Vets to the nearest shelter isn’t enough.
This is a great start because 20% of the men in the homeless population are veterans. Meanwhile, 1.4 million other veterans are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. The cuts from the sequester and lack of a federal budget agreement are hitting Vets hard with 900,000 losing food payment support as the monthly Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) has been allowed to expire.
And it is working. The VA is on target to enroll more than 10,000 Veterans in a special program called the Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team (H-PACT) by the end of 2013. Providing health care for the homeless is key to advancing the VA’s goal to end Veteran homelessness by 2015. Their special programs are pulling Vets out of homelessness.
Over a dozen years, I’ve met many Veterans at our annual winter gear giveaway for people who are living on the streets of Seattle and thanked them for their service as I gave them coats, socks and sleeping bags. This Thanksgiving Day, I have printed out cards to give them so they can get special help. Here’s the template so you can, too.
Founder Patti Dunn is accepting coats and sleeping bags for Survive the Streets’ Thanksgiving Day Gear Giveaway in Seattle http://bit.ly/16VpnHT and donations to a pilot program that prevents homelessness http://survivethestreets.org.