The fire and emergency services have made tremendous strides in responder safety by embracing the concept of “Everyone Goes Home.” Home can have different meanings to different people, and it’s more than just a building — it’s people, memories and comfort. Home is what responders fight to save on the fireground. It’s the reason rescuers try one more time to resuscitate someone.
Now imagine finding that after a long struggle you have no home to return to. That is the situation facing approximately 60,000 American veterans.
The transition back to civilian life can be difficult for returning military men and women. Many face lack of employment opportunities, mental-health challenges and financial hardships, which can lead to homelessness if not dealt with.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is working to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. It has increased the funding and resources available to provide individualized, comprehensive programs, including health care, employment, education and housing assistance. The VA works to help veterans and their families find and maintain safe and stable housing, referrals to VA primary care, mental-health or substance-use treatment services, income assistance, employment support, disability benefits, credit repair, and money management skills.
Fire and rescue professionals are in a position to help and — as a veteran — I am very proud to say theis lending its support to this effort. As we approach Memorial Day, I am asking you join us in supporting our veterans. Together we can make a big difference.
Visit www.va.gov/homeless/ to learn more about the VA program and share the link with other community members and partners. Consider connecting with local or regional Veteran Affairs officials or other veteran’s groups for additional information specific to your area.
What else can you do? If you encounter community members who lack safe, stable housing, ask them if they served in the military. Or if you encounter a veteran who is homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, encourage him to call 877-4AID-VET. You also can obtain free materials that promote the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans and other VA services at www.va.gov/homeless/materials_center.asp/.
Wallet-sized cards are appropriate to carry on our apparatus, as they take up little space and can be distributed easily when you encounter a veteran during an incident or at a public event. Posters, brochures and magnets are useful to have in the stations or to distribute when attending public events. Summer is a popular time to be out in the community. Make sure you have this information on hand when your department is supporting events that may have a large veteran audience, such as Memorial Day parades or Fourth of July celebrations.
We all can be tremendously proud that we have embraced the Everyone Goes Home initiatives. In that same spirit, let’s also help ensure that our military personnel have a place to go home to. As you work to keep your personnel and your community safe, remember we can all do something to help end veteran homelessness.