Monday, October 31, 2011
Response to post on Military.com
There are 2 problems that could be meshed in order to mitigate each. The first is veteran homelessness. The second is the glut of empty homes, indeed empty neighborhoods. With all the money spent on outreach to homeless vets, it seems that it might be cheaper in some cases to purchase those homes, especially where an entire neighborhood could be purchased so that the vets would be around people with whom they share life-altering experiences. I can envision now-empty neighborhoods filled with veterans and their families (in some areas), with certain homes converted for group living. Veterans are already accustomed to living in barracks, hooches, homeless shelters (in the worst cases), so the transition could be relatively painless. In each neighborhood a central veterans' outreach office could be established in one of the homes with services offered on-site, like transportation to the nearest VA Medical Center, group therapy sessions, transition to permanent living, and so forth. In some cases, this might be permanent housing.
As a veteran, I see my fellow vets on the streets, using, abusing, and basically thrown away once the general public is done with their services. The police rarely know how to respond to veterans and the result is usually jail. That could be prevented with a neighborhood police department that's trained specially to deal with veterans, especially those with conditions like PTSD. It might even be a situation where MP (Military Police) veterans, those who are already accustomed to dealing with their fellow vets, could make the best cops to handle any situations that might occur and prevent troubled vets from from going to jail, incurring a criminal record, and having their problems ignored or left un(der)treated.
I see so much possibility here. Yes, the program would cost a bit to get started, and yes, there would be a cost to run it, but in some situations that might be offset by having the veterans who inhabit the community pay subsidized rent from their veterans compensation or from their wages from private sector jobs. The program could be fine-tuned as it evolves providing that the charter was flexible enough to allow it to progress smartly.
Imagine: An entire neighborhood of veterans surrounded by those they feel comfortable with, by those who don't look down on them, who share the same nightmares. For many veterans, no amount of rehabilitation to reintegration into the general public will suffice to drive away the demons. Let's be proactive, recognize it, and move forward while housing can be purchased at the lowest possible cost.