During my internship I have learned a lot about how and why veterans become homeless. I have also learned that there is not a lot being done in the way of prevention. When soldiers join the military, they go through intensive training and preparation, but there is little to no preparation for when they return to the Unites States. There are programs in place to help veterans after they have fallen into poverty and homelessness, but there are no programs to prevent it. I believe that the in order to fix the problem of homelessness among veterans, we need to keep it from happening in the first place.
Getting a job can be hard for any veteran because upon returning home, most veterans find that they have little to no applicable skills that they can use to get a job as a civilian. Some join the military straight out of high school, and those individuals have no relevant work experience on their resume. A job training program for recently returned veterans would make all the difference in the world. It would make veterans more hirable and therefore less likely to fall into poverty.
Another major cause of homelessness is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Veterans suffering from PTSD may find it difficult to acclimate back into civilian life. They sometimes have a sense of paranoia that can make it difficult to maintain a career, housing, or personal relationships. There are programs that are available to veterans that help treat PTSD, but they are not enough. A homeless veteran on the streets is typically not undergoing treatment and therapy, and that is a problem. PTSD is a serious disorder that makes it hard to function, and no veteran should be forced to live with it, especially on the streets where anything can happen to trigger memories of the traumas of war. There needs to be more intensive programs available to veterans who are at risk of becoming homeless.
Female veterans are more likely to become homeless than male veterans, and there may be a correlation between homelessness and Military Sexual Trauma (MST). There is an incredible moving documentary out called The Invisible War that addresses the issue of MST and the specific ways female veterans are affected by it. A female veteran is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than to be killed by enemy fire, and there is very little being done about it. There are even some homeless women dealing with both MST and PTSD – these women should never have become homeless in the first place.
In order to end veteran homelessness, we need to catch it before it happens. Preventing an epidemic is a lot easier than treating one, and by giving soldiers the assistance they need as soon as – if not before – they get home we could keep many of them off the streets.