“Honestly it’s a combination,” Program Manager for Community Reintegration Services Jim Seney said. “I think you look at intensifying the outreach efforts but you also have our economic situation is not improving at rapid rates as folks would hope.”
Nationwide, the VA helped 21 percent more veterans in 2012 than 2011, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. More veterans are seeking help than ever before. That led to a 17 percent decrease in homelessness between 2009 and 2012. Seney says western Massachusetts numbers are even better than that.
“We are engaging better out here. We have a great partner and a grant per diem program in western Massachusetts in soldier on,” Seney said. “They do fantastic outreach work and they are really out there engaging the veterans.”
Part of the problems of getting newer veterans employed and in housing is that they have different needs when they come home from war.
“Head injury wounds, post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury,” Seney said. “And so physically to you and i look fine but they are struggling cognitively with their memory, they are struggling with sleep, and this is affecting their ability to function.”
Seney says outreach and prevention across cities and towns is key, whether it’s a new peer-to-peer program or simply scouring the area for those hiding in any warm place they can find.
“The goal is zero because anyone who serves this country should be housed,” Seney said.
About 10% of all homeless Americans are veterans. If you know of a veteran who needs help of any kind, including finding a home, just call 1-877-4aid-vet.