The homeless situation in the United States is spiraling out of control, and nowhere is this more shameful to our Nation, and an indictment against our current economic system than in the Veterans'
Community. There are several ways to address this issue, and I hope in this paper to explore various options we have both as communities and a nation to mitigate the situation.
To begin with, we must recognize, as I am sure most of us are aware, that until we eliminate WAR as policy we will always have the matters of PTSD and “re-integration” to contend with. The only sure way to eliminate “homeless veterans” is to eliminate war abroad, and until we can do that, we must catch the vet before they become ensnared in post deployment depression and addictions. That means we must build a platform within the Active Service Term for the individual on a case by case basis.
Let me illustrate what this might look like.
A group of counselors would begin a series of interviews with the individual with the goal of discerning the individuals’ talents and aspirations. The desired result must be calibrated to the ambitions and abilities of the individual. For example, if a person really wanted “to become a guitar player, but joined the army to get college money” then we must convince that individual to use the GI Bill to enroll in music academy, as opposed to trying to become a business major.
The reason we are seeing such large numbers in the drop out rate is that we cannot reasonably expect a young person, having returned from a combat zone, to simply pick up where they left off in high school and have the “college experience”.
What must be done is to allow people to pick up where they left off, to re-integrate that person with the one they were “before the Army”.
It begins with pre-enlistment screening assuming that the person will live through the military experience, and to return that individual to a comfortable psychological state.
Ultimately, no one must be admitted into military service under the age of 21.
Secondly, individuals of a “sensitive nature” must be made thoroughly aware of the risks and dangers of exposure to military life, particularly deployment in “hostile territories”.
One need not have experienced combat to have been traumatized during ones’ term of service. Sexual assaults, waste and corruption on behalf of the chain of command, and interaction with locals, all have a profound effect on ones' post deployment outlook on life, and there must be mechanisms in place to secure the mental integrity of the individual.
Peer counselling with Veterans integrated into active units six months before the person gets out of the military may prepare the young person for post deployment life better than fielding job offers from Corporate headhunters or compulsory Military Guidance Counsellors.
To summarize, vets coaching kids on the rigors and challenges of post deployment life. And, it would be preferred that vets were able to conduct “interventions” with the goal of funnelling the right types of people into service, and prevent the entry of individuals not suited for service.
We cannot trust the military recruiters to do this, because they all are just working for quotas and the military. It must be civilians with military experience, even family members of vets, that do this outreach.
As for the homeless veteran who is presently suffering, they must be made aware of the improvements in VA services and care. They do not want to be cajoled or conned into seeking treatment. Once again, peer to peer models seem to be fairly effective, such as Swords to Plowshares “veterans Commons” program in San Francisco, or the Vet Hunters in Los Angeles, Veterans First! in Orange County and other community based relief programs.
With Occupy Veterans San Francisco, I was able to connect veterans of similar culture-generational affinities through informal discussion and organized activities that drew on the strengths of our experiences and skills gained during service, and develop friendships, these new relationships are fostered and a buddy system emerges that allows trust and support. The idea being that a couple of vets, or a group would collectively act together for the benefit of any member. (“All for One, and one for All”).
Thus, veterans would be pooling their “benefits” checks and getting apartments together, collectively sharing responsibilities and providing mutual support. The veterans need to be calibrated to one another in only few areas; drug preferences,political orientation, age and gender, etc.
Think of it as a “match making” project.
Some veterans prefer to live out of doors, and this is fine. With OVSF, we have been able to provide younger veterans who still need the rush of tactical excitement with a “syndicate” of vacant buildings and outdoor spaces where they can bivouac.
This latter option entails varying degrees of legality: however it provides us with a crucial political point, as well as keeping the veteran in what I term an “operational mindset”.
The bottom line is that younger veterans just coming home have different wants than the older veterans, that the needs of food and shelter are common, and that veterans have to be able to feel liberated at all times.
At the neighborhood level, there would appear to be some organizations that do “good work”, for example the established VFW Halls Am Legion, etc.
At the city level, populations and administrations need to be pressured through Direct Actions to provide SPACE, any space to homeless veterans. A forcible building take over if one will not be donated to us. An occupation to liberate land. Impeachment of City Officials. Boycotting of businesses, or in extreme cases, property damage. The variety of ways that Direct Action in tandem with political pressure such as petitions and rallies can influence public opinion is considerable.
If we are to mitigate the effects of this problem, we must determine what levels of compliance or resistance the veteran is willing or able to engage in.
Confirm status and calibrate personality to action plan
Stage the Veteran up, provide stability or track the Vet (Search and Rescue)
Support holding pattern
Maintenance and Sustainability.