By: National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
This month, our country lost a pair of unsung heroes, Rita and Carlos Martinez, of San Antonio, TX, at the hands of COVID-19. One of the things that is most true about nonprofit leadership is that the entire family serves and supports the organization. Carlos was the President and CEO of The American GI Forum’s National Veterans Outreach Program (AGIF NVOP), since 1974. His wife Rita was by his side during his 46 years leading AGIF NVOP, where programs grew into a comprehensive set of services for veterans, including shelter, permanent housing & employment assistance spanning several cities across the state of Texas. A veteran of the United States Air Force, Mr. Martinez also informed veterans policy at the national level for decades and served on the NCHV Board of Directors. The programs he created and led served thousands of veterans and their families annually, and his loss is being felt acutely by all who were lucky enough to know and work with him.
While Carlos Martinez remains a giant, in terms of his contributions to the national movement to serve veterans facing housing instability, he is not the only soul this movement has lost.
Each of those people lost while serving others is a champion in their own right. Shelter and permanent supportive housing operators are on the front lines, serving a highly vulnerable population that needs their services in order to be safe from COVID-19.
NCHV members are protecting their teams from contracting COVID, dealing with the mental health challenges & compassion fatigue that have accompanied this crisis, and the added stress of continuing operations while staff navigates a fractured childcare system. They do all of this while dealing with a rise in clients and staff who are facing hard financial choices due to pandemic-related changes, such as grief for friends and family lost, the end of enhanced unemployment benefits, the collapse of key industries in some communities, and changes accompanying stay-at-home orders, including rising utility and food costs now that we are all at home.
Individual employers can offer some support. The support a nonprofit organization offers is not as comprehensive as what could be provided with a federal expansion of the social safety net. Unfortunately, Congress has recessed as they continue to negotiate a deal.
An increase in homelessness is likely without intervention at the federal, state and local levels.
Contact your elected officials to demand they support additional coronavirus recovery legislation that includes key investments to the social safety net. Programs like LIHEAP, SNAP, homeless assistance, affordable housing, and veteran services all need funding so homeless veterans and those who help them will not be left behind.
Visit [www.nchv.org] to learn more about NCHV.