Our Views: Housing program helping lift up homeless veterans
If you listen to WCLO, you've likely heard the public service announcements for communityofveterans.org. You know, the one where a soldier returns home and a boy asks, “Did you have to shoot anyone?” A man asks, “So what's the deal, you gonna get a job now, or what?” And a woman says, “Why are you being so jumpy? Put all that stuff behind you, OK?”
Many veterans come home not with visible and physical wounds but deep emotional scars. If these soldiers don't get help, these wounds can plague them for years or their entire lives. They can lead to shattered families, unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse and even homelessness.
It's a tragedy that so many veterans suffer such fates. That, however, is where the Rock Valley Community Programs and its supporters are stepping in. In 2011, the nonprofit opened Housing 4 Our Vets in the former Caravilla Nursing Home between Janesville and Beloit. The program can help up to 48 homeless veterans at a time transition into their own housing.
These are veterans of all ages. Many served in Vietnam, but others were in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps they suffer from brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. They don't just get a roof over their heads. They also get counseling and medicines, three daily meals, Internet access and rides to places such as Veterans Administration medical centers. They can rely on each other for support while writing resumes and learning money management and family-living skills. They can get job skills at adjacent Blackhawk Technical College.
Don Gross, for example, told Anna Marie Lux in Monday's Gazette that he struggled with substance abuse and lost his job, home and marriage. He went through a VA treatment program that he says saved his life. He used veterans educational benefits to earn a degree in industrial mechanics from Blackhawk Tech, serves as resident manager of the housing program and knows that his life will again fall apart if he returns to his old ways.
Program social worker John Smith sees veterans who have burned bridges until they have no family or friends. He helps connect them to benefits and jobs.
“A lot of these guys are very proud and don't want to ask for help,” Smith told Lux. “That is why they will live in their cars or their tents.”
Veterans make up a large percentage of homeless Americans. Last year, Housing 4 Our Vets found independent housing for 68 percent of those involved. That's above the average of 55 percent for similar programs.
The VA offers funding, but Housing 4 Our Vets still relies on our generosity for money, as well as bedding, coats and toiletries. It also needs volunteer drivers.
It's not just students in Rock County who find themselves homeless. Veterans need hands up, as well, and Housing 4 Our Vets and its contributors do great things. The program helps those who've sacrificed for our country to rebuild their lives and regain dignity.
Your donations are appreciated.