Michael J. Brien: A venting on veteran homelessness in New Hampshire
In September 2011, I met Ron, a Korean War vet staying at New Horizons Shelter in Manchester, who unfortunately had begun self-medicating with alcohol since the war. He would rather chew me up and spit me out than accept help. But after working with him for a couple of months and gaining his trust, he let me and another long-time case manager at New Horizons get him into a congregate living apartment through the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority. It took several weeks more before he would accept that a one-bedroom apartment with a twin-sized bed, a small kitchen table, two kitchen chairs, a coffee table, recliner and TV donated by St. Vincent de Paul was really his to come home to every night.
In just the program I am paid through, Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF), Congress and the VA established funding that they hoped would end homelessness among veterans by 2015. A noble and honorable goal, but I don't think so. Our current and recently-ended conflicts in Iraq and soon, Afghanistan, will be churning out homeless veteran numbers that previously took those who fought in Vietnam a half-generation to bring to light.
Thankfully for Linda's family, many hands pitched in to help. Some of them are continuing to help this woman put her life back together — they include the woman's own two hands and brute determination, her mother's caring and financial help, My Friend's Place, the Exeter and Manchester school systems, The Way Home, Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and a bunch of other organizations that just splash out in acronyms will astound you — SSVF, HVRP, SNAP, TANF, VA, VASH, VFWs. All for one mom-veteran and her kids.
It isn't easy, and we can't simply walk away.
There, I've said it.
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