Al Dia: Homeless To Hopeful
The homeless population in Philadelphia is not just made up of people that have encountered hardships from not having a job, but many of them are veterans of the armed forces whom haven’t been able to adjust back into society after returning from the battlefields.
Those impacted the hardest tend to be veterans that come from low-income households. When many of them joined the military, they did not expect to leave so soon, and therefore did not become eligible for the military’s retirement plan, which includes a lifetime half-salary pension.
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 40% of homeless veterans are either African-American or Hispanic, yet combined, they make up only 14% of the veteran population in the United States.
Bianca Williams of Drexel University says that Post-traumatic stress disorder has become one of the biggest problems that veterans face when returning into society.
“It almost makes them unable to function normally in society,” Williams said. “PTSD can lead to issues that go beyond just the mental issues but gets in the way with them getting jobs and deal with family and their social life.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs is well aware of this problem and has stepped up to the plate in offering services for those that have served.
The VA estimates that there are close to 12,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone, and that number is growing everyday.
While many veterans do take advantage of government programs in place to help them, there is still a large number that don’t because they have become involved in drug addiction and alcohol. To be eligible for the programs offered by the VA, veterans must have served in one of the listed wars. Included are World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few others.
They also offer programs outside of the VA including the Veterans Group in Powelton Village section of Philadelphia.
Matthew Dunphy is the programs director, he discussed the issues that many veterans face.
“People are going through divorces, job loss, PTSD…it’s a combination of things,” said Dunphy.
The Veterans Group is a male only house that gets referrals from many sources including the VA. They provide rooms, a garden, food and televisions among other amenities for veterans. They veterans pay based on their ability to pay. They offer workshops, financial management tools and resources for veterans to use.
“We help them get to that next level and resource that they need,” Dunphy said.
Some new programs that the government through the VA has in the works is a plan to help benefit children of veterans in addition to the current counseling offered to spouses.
A problem encountered was that veterans could not afford or find anyone to take care of their children while they attended counseling, so a daycare is in the works for children of active service members and veterans.
The Veterans Group is located at 3209 Baring street, and can be contacted at (215) 222-4379.
The local Department of Veterans Affairs offices in Philadelphia are at 801 Arch street and they can be reached at 215-627-0238, and the Northeast Vet Center is located at 101 East Olney Avenue next to Einstein Medical Center and can be reached at 215-924-4670.
by By Jaime R. Joseph and Isabel B. Garcia