Veterans issues still include homelessness

me in greater and greater numbers, but for many “home” is nothing more than an abstract. For many veterans there is no place to call home.
Homelessness is not a new issue for veterans. Statistics have been gathered and studies have been done since the 1980s. After veterans began returning home from the Vietnam War in the ‘70s the problem of started to rise to a more noticeable level.
The post-Vietnam era wasn’t the first time large numbers of veterans had been homeless, but it was a time when the problem reared its head greater than almost any other moment in the United States.
Studies from the 1980s and 1990s found that Vietnam and post-Vietnam vets were over-represented in the homeless population, while veterans of World War II and Korea were less likely to be homeless than civilians of the same age.
Some of those worrisome figures still haven’t changed. A 2009 study by Veterans Affairs found that Vietnam and post-Vietnam era veterans are still over-represented in the homeless population.
However, no one seems to be able to say exactly what it is that causes this risk. Even the VA seemed at a loss, saying in its study that more research needs to be done.
“The presence of additional risk for homelessness specifically associated with Veteran status is puzzling,” the study says “in that it occurs among a population that shows better outcomes on almost all socioeconomic measure and that has exclusive access to an extensive system of benefits.”
It’s understandable that the VA might be baffled that the services it administers aren’t as successful as it might hope. Whichever way the VA chooses to look at veteran homelessness, though, the issue won’t simply go away without additional effort. At the moment the problem persists, in spite of the VA’s puzzlement.
Estimates in 2010 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development indicated nearly 150,000 veterans had lived in shelters at some point in the year. The exact estimate (if there can be such a thing) was 144,842. Based on estimate confidence, though, this number could be as high as 178,208.
According to the Olympic Workforce Development Council, 684 veterans in Kitsap County are on unemployment insurance. That’s 20 percent of total number of persons on unemployment in the county.
One in five people on unemployment in Kitsap County is a veteran.
In January alone Housing Solutions Center of Kitsap County worked with the households of 28 veterans who were homeless or at risk of losing their housing. Half of those households had absolutely no income or were living on less than $350 per month.
These numbers are only the households that have come for help. All signs indicate there are others who are not receiving aid.
“Somebody that’s homeless and not identifying themselves — it’s kind of hard to track,” said James McKenna at Kitsap County WorkSource.
McKenna said housing is often the most pressing need for veterans who come in looking for help. That, and employment.
McKenna and his staff work to help veterans get employed, but often veterans with other needs come in to their office in East Bremerton seeking help. McKenna said, even if he can’t help somebody he will work to find them someone who can.
“If somebody comes in and they’re not looking for employment, but they don’t know where to go, we’ll certainly point them in the right direction,” he said.
In Kitsap County there are a number of housing resources. So many, in fact, it would be hard for an individual with significant resources to keep track of them all — let alone an individual with no car, no money and no home.
Luckily, Kitsap Community Resources works in conjunction with all the local housing resources through its Housing Solutions Center. There are five centers operated throughout the county: two in Bremerton, two in Port Orchard and one in Poulsbo.
Housing Solutions helps provide transportation assistance as well as maintaining a community-wide waiting list for shelters and affordable housing.
They can be reached in at 360-473-2035, or go to 1201 Park Avenue in Bremerton.
Throughout the year, many of the local resource groups get together and host what are called a Stand Down for veterans in need. The next one will take place at the Sheridan Community Center in Bremerton on April 27, McKenna said.
“A number of us resources get together and have clothing, food, haircuts, dental and medical services … just for veterans and their families,” McKenna said.
President Obama has called to reduce veteran homelessness on a national level. The amount to which that effort has succeeded is not totally clear yet — but one thing is evident, without a concerted effort and help from community members at a local level a national campaign cannot succeed.