Next week is my last week here at Friendship Place. This has been an amazing learning experience for me; I came here with very little knowledge about homelessness and almost none about homelessness among veterans. With my internship drawing to a close, I would like to take a moment to reflect on just a few of the things I have learned so far about the issue.
Veteran homelessness is a complex problem. There are a variety of reasons that veterans can become homeless. Many veterans suffer from physical or psychological problems (like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that can make it hard to assimilate back into civilian life. There are so many other factors that can put a veteran on the streets. Some do not have much support from family and friends, or they may lack applicable skills, which can make it difficult to find a job. These are just a few examples of risk factors; there are many more.
Female veterans are more at risk of becoming homeless than the general population. A higher percentage of veterans are homeless than anyone else, and while most veterans are men, women veterans are even more likely to become homeless.
Some shelters and service providers can only offer services to veterans with anything but a dishonorable discharge. Therefore, one might think that a priority for a homeless veteran who was released from the military under dishonorable conditions would be to change the status of their discharge. However, it can take around two years to get a discharge upgrade. There are organizations out there that can provide discharge upgrade services, but it can be discouraging for a veteran who is on the streets and needs more immediate assistance.
Despite all the negative things I have come to learn, it is also apparent that things are starting to look up. Veteran homelessness is on the decline. Efforts are being made to end homelessness among veterans, and they are starting to pay off. If the numbers continue to drop, then hopefully in a few more years no veteran will have to spend their nights on the streets.