The Crusader Newspaper Group

Homeless Veteran Women, Men, and their Children

By Anesia Byrdwell

Cliff Kelley is a Vietnam veteran, on air personality at WVON 1690AM, and host of the America’s Heroes Group discussion roundtable which airs weekly on Saturdays.  A recent show highlighted the struggles of, and offered solutions for homeless veteran women, men, and their children.

On October 6, 2018 the America’s Heroes Group discussion delved in to some of the military benefits that can be difficult for homeless veterans to find.  The show included as panelists VA Director Marc Magill, and Tracy Emmanuel, Supervisory Social Worker for the Jesse Brown VA Homeless Center.

According to the 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, or AHAR, former members of the United States Armed Forces made up about 11 percent of the 442,723 total homeless adults. That’s 49,933 homeless veterans!

The report also reveals there are four states that comprise a large portion of the homeless veteran population: California (096), Florida (552), Texas (718), and New York (542) make up close to half of all the population with 21,908. California alone makes up 24 percent of the estimated veteran homeless population. California also made the list for the highest rate of “Unsheltered Veterans” with 63.2 percent, or 7,639 unsheltered Veterans.

120000 HOMELESS VA GRAPH e1540530252885

These homeless veterans — men, women and sometimes their children—sleep on park benches, the streets, and some in their cars.

The Jesse Brown VA Homeless Center recognized not only the problem of homelessness, but the lack of health care delivery to the homeless, and tackled the issue of providing health services for homeless veterans.

Emmanuel discussed the Get Out on the Streets outreach team that goes directly to veterans at whatever location the veteran resides. The outreach team will meet with veterans at coffee shops, park benches, or at their place of residence in order to provide them with information and health services. Homeless and disabled veterans benefit greatly from the outreach team coming to their location. Without the team operating on their behalf, many homeless veterans would not receive the vital health services they need.

While having direct contact with veterans, the outreach team discovered that some veterans avoid medical care.  Emmanuel notes, “people don’t want to go to the hospital.”  This is due in part to some veterans having a fear of hospitals, that prevents them from obtaining needed services. Others are ashamed of their circumstances, or too intimidated to go into a hospital to ask for services to maintain proper health.

As a veteran and homeless, the men and women are sometimes reluctant to go to the hospital for fear of being judged as not clean, or they don’t feel good about themselves.  The outreach team has someone go to the person’s home or wherever the homeless veteran calls home,  to provide information about the services they may need. The outreach team strives to make a homeless veteran feel like a person who matters, and  allows him or her to maintain dignity. In addition the Jesse Brown VA provides transportation and food for veterans who may need those services.

Michael Marshall is a veteran who works for the Jesse Brown VA hospital as a Peer Support Specialist. In 2012 he went from homelessness to working.  He provides a face for the veterans who are ashamed of their addiction. As a Peer Support Specialist Marshall wants to directly help as many homeless veterans as possible.  He feels a sense of purpose at the Jesse Brown VA,  a purpose he said  he felt “from the first time I walked through that door.  I was on a mission to heal.”

The peer support specialist’s job is to offer the homeless veterans hope, inspiration, support, and encouragement.  But assisting homeless veterans also helps the worker feel good about his job. Marshall commented that he “finds joy in seeing vets benefit from the services” as he aids homeless veterans in getting on the right path.

ahf 2018 sept7

The Community Resources and Referral Center, also called the CRRC, is a one-stop shop for veterans. CRRC can assist veterans who are homeless, or on the verge of being homeless. At CRRC veterans in need of assistance have a safe place where they can go and tell their stories and get connected to services at the same time. Veterans also are able to access food and clothing at the CRRC. CRRC encourages the veterans to “be as you are.”

Emmanuel estimated that there might be one woman to 10 males, who come into the program. One shelter holds about 75 beds for veterans.  On the roster for the beds there might be only four or five women, while there might be as many as 65-70 males in need of a warm place to sleep. Veterans who need services are encouraged to call the CRRC directly at 312-569-5750 to get connected to a social worker. Veterans experiencing homelessness can call a hotline to get connected to the nearest VA; the number is 1-877-424-3838.

National Women Veterans United, founded by Michelle Crump, also provides services for women veterans who may be homeless. The NWVU is the only veteran’s group in the state of Illinois that is focused on women. NWVU provides peer support to encourage women veterans.

Peer support has women veterans from all branches of the services with the same life experiences, who can help other women relate. Veterans can look to peer support to help with PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma, and Head Trauma at the NWVU. There is a relationship of trust that is built through peer support.

It is said that some veterans have developed a mistrust of the Jesse Brown VA, for a variety of reasons.   The peer support group can help rebuild the trust and support that can encourage women to re-visit the VA.  Crump remarked that peer support can help the women slowly regain trust in the VA. Their goal is for the women to “get welcomed in the way that they did not receive while there some time ago.”  Crump says it is not something that can happen overnight; a good relationship between veterans and the VA is a work in progress, but peer support works in helping women access the services that they need.

American Heroes Group, a roundtable discussion, is a partnership between the Chicago Crusader and radio station WVON 1690AM. The discussion group aims to inform, empower, and encourage active military and veterans in all branches. The program is hosted by Cliff Kelley; it airs weekly on Saturdays from 5 p.m to 6 p.m.

Recent News

Scroll to Top