Home At Last provides homes for veterans in need

BRATTLEBORO — With Veteran's Day upon us, Americans are reminded of the millions who have served our nation as members of the military.

Our government continues to ask its citizens to sacrifice for the good of our country, and tens of thousands answer the call. Some pay the price of service with their lives; others, with permanent disabilities.

One disability that is little recognized or understood is homelessness among our veterans.

Who are these citizens? Twelve percent of the overall homeless population are veterans, of whom 8 percent are women. Two-thirds have served three years or more and are, on average, younger than the general veteran population.

According to the Veteran's Administration, nearly 60,000 vets are homeless at any one time, while 1.4 million are considered at risk of homelessness. The percentage of homeless vets in Vermont and New Hampshire exceeds the national rates: Vermont is at 9.1 percent and New Hampshire is 9.5 percent, compared to 8 percent nationwide.

What are some of the causes of homelessness in our veterans? More than 50 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and/or a physical disability. Limited affordable housing, few jobs paying a livable wage, and the cutbacks to vital social services combine to make life after the military more challenging for some of our veterans.

Many suffer from substance abuse that can be attributed to their unstable existence. A vicious cycle occurs.

Here in southern Vermont, there is a small community-based program quietly helping veterans make a better life for themselves.

Home At Last (HAL), a nonprofit organization, buys and rehabs mobile homes for vets. HAL collaborates with the White River Junction VA Medical Center and receives most of its funding from individual contributions, augmented by some federal and corporate contributions.

Currently, HAL has six homes in the area. The VA provides case-management services tailored to meet the psychological, social, and medical needs of the vets in our homes. HAL is a hand up, not a hand out. Vets are required to contribute 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities.

As co-founder of HAL, World War II vet Bob Miller said, “Acquiring a permanent home is the first essential step in helping homeless veterans to solve other problems they face.”

Our modest program is making a difference in the lives of those who have answered the call to service.

Home At Last contributions are gratefully accepted. With community support, we can do what is right for those who have sacrificed so much. HAL's address is P.O. Box 6104, Brattleboro, VT 05302.

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