Beautiful light displays and festive vignettes are everywhere we look from late November to early January. We recently celebrated the beginnings of our country with Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Day, which, for many, marks the beginning of the holiday season. Christmas shopping kicked off in full on Black Friday – and faith groups from most of the world’s religions celebrate holy days during December.
While we are focused on our own celebrations, let’s remember that the holidays are not as bright for everyone. The number of homeless Veterans around the country is hard to estimate – the last Point-in-time count estimated that there were roughly 38 thousand homeless Veterans nationwide, approximately the same number as the year prior’s estimates. However, there were six percent more unsheltered veterans in 2020.
But, the situation is more profound than a report can convey. We are experiencing the highest inflation in decades and are deep into a housing crisis. Rents have increased sharply in most areas, and the purchase price for a house is much higher now than it was only a few short years ago – in addition to higher interest rates increasing the cost of borrowing.
Many Veterans in the state, especially those on a fixed income such as VA disability, retirement, or social security, may be struggling financially. Some who were fine last year may be housing or food insecure this year. VA disability and DoD retirement pay generally increases each January, but often not enough to offset inflation.
Through a partnership with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as with governments and agencies throughout the country, the federal VA has been working hard to find shelter for any unsheltered veteran, with the end goal of keeping them in permanent housing. The VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program can help prevent the imminent loss of a Veteran’s home or rapidly rehouse a veteran and their family in need. The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program can help with rental assistance.
Additionally, the Department of Veterans Assistance operates a Veterans Home in Barboursville that can be a comfortable, convenient home for a Veteran in a crisis.
Many veterans don’t like to ask for help. If you have a battle buddy, shipmate, or veteran friend you haven’t heard from in a while, check on them during the holidays. If you know a Veteran who needs help, get them in touch with us – you can contact a VSO at the benefits office closest to you, email Daryle.W.Bayless@wv.gov, or call 304-588-3661.