I think, we see our troops as invincible and they acquire somewhat of a superhero status in our eyes. They are trained to become battle-ready and efficient armed services personnel that know their weaponry, equipment, strategies, deployments and platoons well and they function like well-oiled battle units under the expert leadership of their commanding officers.
It has always bothered me that these men & women give up a good portion of their lives to serve and be trained to protect us and yet they seem ill-equipped and under-prepared to handle civilian life once their stint in the armed services has come to an end. If they’ve managed to thrive and survive in the rigid and structured defense teams why are so many veterans in dire poverty and dealing with homelessness?
On one day and one night in January 2013, Florida communities counted 45,364 persons who were living on the street, or in an emergency shelter (Thirteen counties did not conduct a count of the unsheltered homeless due to the lack of resources to do the count). Nationally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that homelessness amongst families with children is the fastest growing homeless population. For the 2011-2012 school-year, Florida’s public schools identified 63,685 students as homeless. This includes families that have lost their housing and are staying with family and friends.
Of the homeless persons responding to survey questions on active duty in the U.S. military, 16% indicated that they were veterans. That is 3% increase even after more resources are allocated to help homeless veterans. The conditions and causes that could contribute to homelessness were Disability at 51% and Employment/Financial causes at 49%. More men than women are homeless, but there was no measurement on the male/female veterans’ homeless ratio.
According to the Veterans Administration’s website, Florida is home to more than 160,000 women veterans making them the third largest population in the nation. Women veterans are one of the fastest growing segments nationwide, comprising nearly 10 percent, about 1.9 million of the total veteran’s population.
I think I ask a valid question: Is it necessary to “retrain” our vets? Only recently have the experts acknowledged that human beings need “training” (other terms are discipline or schooling) and “retraining” for every change that we undergo – and if we understand one thing well: change is a constant. We’ve also established that it’s easier to train a child then to re-train an adult. Until the right amount of programs are in place that can provide for every veteran, let not every veteran (with warrior mentality) hang on to pride and battle it out by themselves. Please understand you need a hand up to get retrained for the civilian service which requires a new set of tools, equipment and strategies. Reach out to those services that help you get plugged back into a system where you can feel your outlook improving and self-sufficiency increasing. Since you no longer have a commanding officer over you, it’s up to you to take the first step to make the change work for you.
We salute all you have done in the line of duty, now we urge you to utilize the services available to you to get back your self-respect & well-being. We are plugging for you and look forward to you succeeding at your new life.
God bless you this Memorial Day and every day.
For Homeless Veterans – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has established a toll free National VA Homeless Hotline at:
VA Website for Homeless Veterans
Florida Department of Children and Families
Florida Council on Homelessness
 From Executive Summary from: Council on Homelessness 2013 Report (to the FL State Governor) on Department of Children and Families’ website http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/homelessness/docs/2013CouncilReport.pdf