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The Hardest Challenge With Homeless and On the Edge Veterans
By Jim Murphy
Similar to other regional groups like VVAW and VFP, the Finger Lakes Veterans Peace Coalition (Central-Western NY) does outreach to troubled veterans. Our key discovery point is Loaves and Fishes Food Program/Soup Kitchen where I am frequently present. Staff from there, like Navy Vet JR Clairbourne, identify veterans and the process begins. We are 'connectors' not therapists. Beginning with conversations, we find out what these veterans are missing: housing, jobs, friends, have bad paper, etc. Many veterans are not connected to the VA and/or have mental health handicaps like depression. They are totally unaware of their VA benefits, large or small.
We have a team of veterans that are prepared to help with all needs like food cards for local grocery stores (drinkers get food co-op cards), finding housing, furniture discovery and delivery and some socialization. The core of our group is our local Warrior Writers Chapter… Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nam, C.O.s, etc.
The challenge is that of the veterans' negative outlook on life after what is often years of dysfunction. It is difficult to get some veterans, that often have lived outdoors in the woods, to find ways to have positive interactions with landlords and public housing officials. We're trying to confront in a fun (?) process to teach our hurting brothers and sisters to learn more positive communication skills with those who can affect their lives.
We are always in need of suggestions. What have you seen working for these brothers and sisters?
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Murphy is a long-time member of VVAW.