As we reach the halfway point in the Department of Veterans Affairs five-year plan to end homelessness among veterans, there is a great excitement in communities across the nation. This is a historic process. Never before have we seen so many people working together to end veteran homelessness. Never before have there been so many resources available to communities wishing to solve this problem.
But what can you as an individual do to contribute to the vital mission of ending veteran homelessness? Besides making a donation to organizations like the Alliance that are working hard on the problem, you can contribute to the effort in a variety of ways. Last week, I discussed the ways individuals can contribute in a webinar hosted by the Points of Light foundation.
The webinar, titled “Finding Community Solutions to Serving the Military Community Part 1: Housing,” was aimed at people who were participating the Martin Luther King Day of Service initiative, as well as other members of communities who were looking to broaden their understanding of the issue and looking for ways to donate their time to serve this cause. A recording of the webinar is available online.
Participating with the local Point in Time (PIT) Count is one way almost anyone can make a huge difference. This annual event is coming up in mid- January, right around the time of the MLK day of service, so it is a natural fit. The best way to participate is to contact your local Continuum of Care and ask to volunteer. You can find the contact information of your local Continuum of Care at this website.
Depending where you are, you may be matched up with another organization, or assigned to a team. You will be going out into your community and physically interacting with and counting the unsheltered people experiencing homelessness, helping to identify which of these individuals are veterans. This is challenging work to be sure, but the data retrieved during this event is the cornerstone of addressing the issue. With accurate counts we can target the resources we have and justify future spending.
Volunteering at your local Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VA Hospital) is another way you can help veterans (although not necessarily homeless veterans). You can also donate goods and services to local charities that assist veterans and local Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) in your community.
Whatever option you choose, often the best way to get started is by doing a little research on organizations that help veterans in your area, and the contacting them to ask what they would like you to do to contribute is as an individual. Organizations like these have been around a long time and their staff members know how to best direct resources.
The bottom line is: these are exciting times. Within a few years veteran homelessness will be almost nonexistent, so now is the time to be part of this historic effort to do right by our nations heroes.
Photo “Colorado TAG speaks with homeless vets” courtesy of The National Guard: Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, the Adjutant General of Colorado and commander of the Colorado National Guard, speaks with a veteran during the 19th Annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down held at the Colorado National Guard armory in Denver Nov. 5, 2009.