Veterans Column: Here’s What We Can Do Now to Prevent Veteran Homelessness
By Laura Thomas – mom of an active-duty servicemember; wife, mother-in-law and sister of veterans; and GCVF volunteer
When addressing the topic of veteran homelessness, former President Barack Obama referred to our obligation to take care of our nation’s veterans as a “moral imperative.”
I believe this obligation is best fulfilled long before a veteran becomes another homeless statistic. We can all play a role in this endeavor by addressing the challenges that veterans face transitioning from the military and helping to facilitate that transition.
Most of us have experienced resigning a position, moving from a neighborhood or leaving behind an identity as we move into a new phase of our lives. Any one of these changes can make for a difficult adjustment. Transitioning from the military into civilian life involves experiencing all those changes at the same time.
Many servicemembers join the military at a young age, and the freedoms that life provides outside of the military, can prove to be a trap for the unwary veteran who has not been on his own before. Whereas the military provides clear guidelines for conduct and failure is not an option, in civilian life the boundaries for behavior are not always clear, if they exist at all.
There is zero tolerance for substance abuse in the military, but it can easily become a habit of everyday life for veterans who have not found their place in civilian life. Veterans who abuse substances are more likely to become homeless.
After military service, veterans may choose to remain in the geographic area where they were stationed and may not have any family support in that locale. Veterans without family support are more likely to become homeless.
Wearing a uniform can command respect and even some perks in the civilian world. Out of uniform, though, a veteran is just another soul in line for coffee at the local cafe.
And the person behind the counter there has a job the veteran may not be hired for, because the hiring manager says the veteran hasn’t worked a cash register before. Unemployment leads to financial troubles. Veterans with financial troubles are more likely to become homeless.
We can change these scenarios.
As families we can eliminate isolation by embracing a transitioning veteran without family nearby and invite him or her into our circle of friends. As community members, we can benefit from the “mission driven” mindset that veterans honed in the military and recruit them to work on local projects and initiatives, providing them with an identity and sense of purpose.
As hiring executives and business owners, we can take the time to understand the transferable skills the veteran brings to our organization. We can acknowledge that during their time in the military, veterans held jobs that provided them with a level of experience not obtained by their civilian peers.
They were trusted with equipment worth millions of dollars. They supervised 100 subordinates. In some cases, they were even responsible for other people’s survival. We can harness this maturity and responsibility and provide training where necessary.
When a person has served in the military, that person has known honor and discipline. He or she knows how to get the job done.
We just need to remind them that they still know all those things, and that there is a place for them in the civilian world. That is, quite possibly, the best way for us to say, “thank you for your service.”
Source: VC Star article from April 5, 2021