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How to Help Homeless Ex-Servicemen in Kentucky
When you see a homeless man on the street as you walk past on your way to work, do you ever stop to consider how likely it is that that man once worked hard as a serviceman to protect your country? Estimates of how many homeless veterans there are on the streets of the USA vary wildly, because it is difficult to conduct an accurate census of the homeless population. However the latest statistics show that ex-servicemen make up approximately 43% of all homeless males in the United States. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the vast majority of homeless veterans are male, with only 8% being female. This could be in part because a larger proportion of veterans engaged in active service were male rather than female. Issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), difficulties in readjusting to life away from the forces, and changes to their family dynamic whilst they were away can all drive veterans to homelessness and to living on the streets.
Causes of Homelessness in Ex-Servicemen
Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by exposure to a traumatic event, which is why it is an illness so common amongst veterans. Approximately 5 per cent of people in the United States suffer from PTSD, and 8 per cent of the population has had PTSD at some point. Living with post-traumatic stress disorder is difficult both for the sufferer and their loved ones. It is a mental health issue that is often experienced by veterans and being unable to cope with the effects of PTSD, such as flash backs, feelings of detachment and difficulty sleeping can cause the sufferer to withdraw both from society and their families. This in turn can lead to unemployment and the inability to hold down a job, the breakdown of the family unit and, ultimately, homelessness. When dealing with homelessness amongst veterans it is also important to treat any underlying mental health illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, to avoid any re-entry into the homeless population and further breakdowns caused by the original trauma of their experiences.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is the main cause of homelessness among veterans, and veterans are twice as likely to experience homelessness in their lifetime as other civilians. Currently, Government grants only cover one bed per 192 mentally ill homeless veterans, which is why it’s so important that organizations such as the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky exist to help get homeless Americans off the street. The other problem most associated with the causes of homelessness among Americans is alcohol abuse. When profiling the average demographic of homeless persons in the US, homeless veterans have been found to be older, have slept rough for longer, be less likely to use drugs and more likely to have alcohol-related problems. This is in part attributed to the drinking culture found in the military: there are strict penalties for drug misuse in the military, but drinking is prevalent and in parts encouraged. For these veterans the route from homelessness should be combined with treatment for alcoholism and alcohol abuse to ensure they are ready to be reintroduced to society and able to make financial and emotional contributions to society.
So How Can You Help?
The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping ex-servicemen get off the streets and if you want to offer practical help they are a great source of advice and information. But one of the main ways you can proactively help homeless ex-servicemen specifically living in Kentucky is to support the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky. The HHCK is the only state wide advocacy organization for issues of homelessness and affordable housing in Kentucky. They are speaking not only for homeless veterans but for all homeless people living within the state. By becoming a member of the organization you can stand behind the main aim of the coalition, and all of the work they do: “to eliminate homelessness and fulfill the promise of affordable housing for all Kentuckians.” American veterans have fought hard for our country and they, just like everyone else, deserve a place to call their own when they return home. By joining the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky you are taking the first important step towards helping these ex-servicemen get back on their feet.
Below is a link to a document from the VA about helping veterans succeed in furthering their education
Thank You for making the conference a success. Click here to view the slides presented during the workshop sessions.
The 2013 K Count data is available!View the data online or visit Kentucky Housing Corporation’s K Count Page.