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Veteran's Day 2011

Posted on November 11, 2011 under News


Today is a great day to commemorate the many individuals who fought for our freedom.  As a community, we are lucky to have a National Cemetery here in Fort Smith where many relatives are able to be honored in their final resting place.


Sometimes lost in the discussion, though, is the plight of many forgotten veterans - by family, friends, community and nation.  Last month, seven new individuals with veteran status climbed the stairs to our homeless day resource center and sought assistance.  They added to the over 90 veterans who came to us since last November.


The Next Step Day Room joins with others in attempting to help them find their way in life.  In a wonderful partnership with the Veterans Administration, the Gabriel House has ten beds designated for veterans leaving homelessness.  The soon-to-be completed Buddy Smith Home will add to the resources for veterans.  We have received a fantastic outpouring of support from the community, including Mr. Tim Smith and others who have committed to sponsoring the home and/or separate sleeping quarters.  We thank you.


Some recent statistics were recently released by an organization named 100,000 Homes in a report titled National Survey of Homeless Veterans in 100,000 Homes Campaign Communities.  You can see the report by clicking on the link above.  


The executive summary reads:


Combat ought to be the most difficult experience of a veteran’s life, but many veterans go on to become homeless for eight or nine times the length of their deployments.


Trained volunteers with the 100,000 Homes Campaign surveyed over 23,000 homeless Americans in 47 communities across the country and found that veterans tend to be homeless longer than non-veterans. In fact, homeless veterans reported an average of nearly six years homeless, compared to four years among non-veterans. Among those who reported spending two or more years homeless, veterans reported an average of nearly nine years homeless, compared to just over seven for non-veterans. Age accounted for only part of this disparity.


Length of homelessness matters because the longer people spend on the streets, the morehealth risks they tend to develop. Among the 62% of homeless veterans who reported two or more years of homelessness, over 61% reported a serious physical health condition, 55% reported a mental health condition, 76% reported a substance abuse habit, and 32% reported all three.


As a group, veterans were 11 percentage points more likely to suffer from at least one condition linked to increased risk of death among the homeless population, which means the men and women who risked their lives defending America may be far more likely to die on its streets.


I encourage you to take a look at the report.  Then, when you are done, I hope that you take the time to think about what those findings mean.  We have these men and women in our community.  They face the same struggles that this report points to.  Is there a way that you can do something for their effort?  Are you a mental health counselor that can give of your time?  How about any of the other professional services that could be donated to them?  Do you have an unfilled apartment that you might consider designating for a veteran leaving homelessness? 


If you can think of something, give us a call.  We know quite a few deserving men and women that are waiting for you. 

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