The story begins with a brief interview from a homeless veteran family that has participated for years in San Diego’s annual Stand Down event, which is an outreach fair for homeless veterans.
The attendance for the reflected the national trend that while there are fewer homeless veterans overall, the number of homeless families and homeless female veterans is increasing. And it is a reminder that there is more work that needs to be done to meet the national goal of ending all veterans homelessness by 2015.
The number of homeless veterans across the country has been decreasing with 25,000 fewer homeless veterans today than four years ago.
Highlighting the story of one of the female homeless veterans at the event.
“’I’ve only been homeless for a month this time — this time around,’ says Kim Porter, as her 4-year-old son sits squirming on her lap.”
The number of homeless female veterans like Porter has doubled from 2006 to 2010. This increase can be attributed to a number of factors including the high unemployment rate, disabilities, sexual assault, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)
“The Department of Veterans Affairs has made homelessness a priority, but for years the outreach focused on the veteran, not the family, and that has consequences, says Darcy Pavich (who directs San Diego’s Stand Down.)
‘If a veteran’s in one of our programs and they relapse, and breaks the policy of the program, and their family’s with them, we have to throw the whole family out. Because the VA is paying the program for the veteran to get the services, and then we have to find supportive services for the families,’ she says.”
The good news is that we know that connecting homeless veteran households with housing and employment can help break the cycle of homelessness. This year the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program awarded $300 million and uses the Housing First model. Housing First “Can halt a spiral that does more damage to a veteran’s health and job prospects with each year on the street. It saves lives and money in the long run, says Dennis Culhane, who directs the VA’s National Center on Homelessness.”