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Justice Friday discusses US Homeless Veterans

| Monday, September 12, 2016

As Sept. 11 approached, this week’s Justice Friday installment, presented by Saint Mary’s junior and Justice Education Social Relations Officer Alex Shambery, served as a way to promote social awareness for Homeless U.S. Veterans.

Shambery began by sharing statistics she found through the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) website.

“Eleven percent of homeless adults are veterans,” she said. “Of those 11 percent, 51 percent have disabilities and 50 percent have serious mental illnesses. Seventy percent have substance abuse which ties into mental illness issues.”

In the bigger picture, Shambery said 1.4 million veterans are at risk of living in poverty.

“About 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night,” she said. “America’s homeless veterans have been in World War II, the Korean War, The Cold War and Vietnam.”

According to Shambery, one-third of the veterans who are homeless were directly in these war zones, although she added these numbers are approximations.

“There’s no way of getting a very specific number,” she said. “It’s usually based on average and information they get from homeless shelters.”

All of these statistics raises the question as to why these veterans are homeless. Shambery said the main reason is due to a lack of support.

“Mainly because of an extreme shortage in affordable housing and a lack of family and social support,” she said. “You train to go over there and dedicate your life to try and save your country and then you come back and people tell you that your experience won’t help you find a job in America.”

Saint Mary’s junior Alex Morales said she recently talked to someone who found himself in a similar situation after being deployed.

“He said it almost felt like what would happen if you would die,” Morales said. “He said you lose all of those connections. It’s a weird gray area. I think it just spirals from there.”

Justice Education president and senior Caylin McCallick agreed with Morales.

“The training in the military isn’t necessarily transferring,” McCallick said. “When I was in ROTC, one of my military instructors was a captain in the army. He was an army ranger, but he couldn’t get a job better than working in a factory.”

Shambery said it is the duty of students to reach out through volunteering at homeless shelters. In South Bend specifically she suggested the Center for the Homeless and the Robert L. Miller Senior Veterans Center.

“A lot of people think the government is going to take care of it, but it’s all of our issues,” Shambery said. “Make a donation. If you can’t make a financial donation you can always donate your time. They’re going overseas to fight for us. An hour a week is nothing compared to what they’ve done for us.”

Justice Education vice president and senior Katie Dwyer said spreading awareness among the community is key in helping the veterans.

“I think it’s out of sight out of mind,” Dwyer said. “I think the first thing we should do is spread more awareness about it.”

“[Veterans]need basic physical health care, counseling, job assessment, training, placement and assistance,” Shambery said. “But a top priority is a secure, safe, and supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol.”

Justice Education secretary and junior Morgan Matthews said students can help give veterans part of the supportive environment they need by merely spending some time with them.

“They are coming from a life style that is hectic,” Matthews said. “Then they come to a life of boredom in comparison.”

“I think that’s where we as students should come in,” Shambery said. “We’re not family members, but we can provide that support for them — at least the social support aspect.”

“I think also what needs to be established is veteran-on-veteran support,” Matthews said. “You can sit with a veteran for as long as you want and try to understand, but I think in some cases it might not be enough compared to veteran on veteran.”

Since 2005, Shambery said the number of homeless veterans has been reduced by 70 percent since 2005, but she emphasized that this is not good enough.

“We need to get all our homeless vets off the street,” Shamberry said.

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