How To Help Homeless Veterans This Winter
Back in November, a double-amputee Marine began living on the streets of Uniontown, Pa., to raise awareness about the number of homeless veterans living in America. Marine Cpl. Brandon Runbaugh voluntarily lived outside for a month to gain attention for how veterans often live when they return from active duty.
Many Homeless People Are Veterans
During his time on the streets, Runbaugh held a sign that read, “20% of all homeless are veterans!! HOW???” Carrying only a few supplies, a change of clothes, and some blankets, Runbaugh battled the breezy winter temperatures for 29 days before packing up his things and returning home on Nov. 29, the anniversary of his second deployment when he lost both of his legs in an IED blast in Afghanistan. Read the full story and watch a video clip here.
According to this graphic, the number of homeless veterans in the U.S. has been decreasing slightly since 2009, but as of Jan. 2014, there were approximately 49,333 homeless veterans in the U.S. This is a 67.4 percent decrease in the number of homeless veterans in 2009. While this is a great improvement, much still needs to be done.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 54 percent of homeless veterans have a mental and/or physical disability, and 39 percent are black. Only 11 percent of the total veteran population is black, so the number of homeless black veterans is quite large.
As troops return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, an increasing number of younger, female veterans are ending up homeless; in the past, homeless veterans were often men. Even with the increasing number of younger, female veterans who are homeless, the majority of homeless veterans are males between the ages of 51 and 61 who have served in the Vietnam War.
How To Help A Homeless Veteran
If you spot a homeless veteran on the street, you can help. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides great advice for what to do if you see a homeless veteran on the street. You can help by:
- Stopping to ask if the homeless person has served in the U.S. Military. The VA can help veterans who have lost their housing or are at risk of homelessness.
- If they are a homeless veteran, you can call VA’s toll-free National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-424-3838 (or 1-877-4AID-VET). Responders are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If a veteran does not have a phone to use, you can offer to make the call for them.
- The hotline is free to use and VA registration and healthcare enrollment is not necessary to use the service.
- Veterans may be connected to a Homeless Program Coordinator at the nearest VA medical center. Contact information will be requested, so you are welcome to give out your own number if you are able to coordinate future information with the homeless veteran.
- A 24/7 online chat is also available for veterans who have internet access.
- Veterans who are struggling with mental health issues can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. They may also use the 24/7 online chat.
- Print out these Homeless Wallet Cards to distribute to homeless veterans that you spot on the streets. Give copies to friends and families so that they can do the same. Consider leaving them in libraries, places of worship, and other places that homeless veterans may visit during the day.
- Posters and brochures are also available for printing and distributing.
Spread The Word On Social Media
Homeless veterans may still have access to their phones or the internet, so social media is also an option for reaching homeless veterans, or veterans who are at risk of becoming homeless. Consider using social media for sharing these messages from the Veterans Crisis Line:
- Use #VeteransCrisisLine in all of your related posts.
- Tweet a message that reads: “Retweet. Retweet. Retweet. Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1.” Consider sharing this at least once per week.
- On Facebook and Google+, share a photo of a veteran with the message: “Especially during this time of year, the Veterans Crisis Line is always available to help: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1.”
- Sign up for quarterly outreach emails from the Veterans Crisis Line. Subscribers will be the first to hear about news and tools that can be used to raise awareness for homeless veterans in need.
- Use this Social Media Toolkit for sharing videos, messages of hope, and graphics.
Give Back With Car Donation
Car donation is another great way to help homeless veterans in your community. When you donate a vehicle to Vehicles For Veterans, your donation will benefit disabled veterans throughout the United States.
At Vehicles For Veterans, donated cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, or other types of vehicles are either recycled or auctioned off to new owners, and the earned proceeds are used to support programs and services offered to veterans in need. Take action to help veterans in need of assistance by calling 1-855-811-4838 or filling out our online car donation form.