In 2013, BWCIL was awarded a Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Since then, BWCIL, with its sub-grantees Disability Network Wayne Co.- Detroit, and Disability Network Oakland Macomb, have had the opportunity to assist over 400 veteran families that are experiencing a housing crisis in the counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Lapeer, Sanilac, Tuscola, and Huron.
The SSVF grant awarded to BWCIL assist veterans that are experiencing homelessness or are having difficulty maintaining their housing. Other eligibility criteria includes: low income and having at least one day of active military service with an other than dishonorable discharge.
How did BWCIL, a disability organization, find itself providing veteran services?
Well, if we look at statistics provided by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, we can see that 45% of the veterans that are experiencing homelessness are suffering from a mental illness, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Not to mention that one in ten veterans obtain injuries sustained in combat. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness reports that 70% of veterans that are homeless also suffer from substance abuse problems.
But the veteran population makes up such a small number of our overall population, there can’t be that many homeless veterans, right? Actually, veterans are more at risk of becoming homeless than non-veterans. 33% of homeless males in the US are veterans. On any given night over 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S.
What is the Department of Veterans Affairs doing to address this issue?
Over three hundred agencies across the United States were awarded Supportive Services for Veteran Families Grants last year. These grants allow for temporary financial assistance for rental assistance, security deposits, utility assistance, and other items needed for general housing stability. VA is also focused on Priority 1 areas, cities that have a high population of homeless veterans (ie. Detroit with 1,500 homeless veterans a year) and has provided additional funding for those areas. With the agencies focused on ending veteran homelessness progress is being made. Cities through out the country (like New Orleans) have already reached functional zero. Which means that no veteran is forced to live on the street and that when homeless does occur it is brief.
What can you do to help?
If you are a veteran or you know of a veteran that is in need of housing assistance, please contact BWCIL. 810-987-9337 or see our website at http://bwcil.org.