There's no denying that homelessness - particularly among veterans - is a growing problem that has shocked our nation. We've seen article after article (and written blog after blog) on the urgent need for communities and the government to do something to address the plight of so many of our military heroes who are living on the street.
But what about their brothers? More specifically, what about their brothers in arms - other veterans, who understand the struggle and may have even "been there before" themselves?
Peer support can be crucial when it comes to most of life's challenges - we've written elsewhere on the value of peers in the field of addiction recovery. And now, a growing trend in the news is indicating that "vets helping vets" programs can fill the gap in addressing veteran homelessness that county and federal governments might not be able to fill.
Here are 3 awesome ways we've seen veterans across the nation help their fellow warriors conquer homelessness:
1. In Kansas City, 3 military veterans founded a group called "Veterans Community Project," and its goal is simple: for vets to create (tiny) homes for fellow vets in need of homes. One additional, awesome, way this project serves our nation's heroes is with peer mentorship - they go the extra step of pairing those in need with a veteran mentor who understands their specific needs and issues
2. Jack Potter, a U.S. Army Veteran in Washington, and founder of Veterans Christian Charity, is dedicated to serving other military servicemen and servicewomen with his charity for those who are experiencing homelessness. This dedication was tested the day his life changed and he became homeless himself. Jack managed to pull himself up out of his situation, and then refocused his energies on reaching others in the homeless community - he has since gone on to launch the beginning stages of a veterans housing project in Olympia, and is working with the business community to meet the needs of local homeless vets.
3. In August, more than 19,560 VA employees and 8,160 Veterans participated in the recent 2016 annual VA2K Walk & Roll event. This event not only raised money and awareness for homeless veterans, but also accepted donations of food, clothes, toiletries and other items with an estimated value of more than $384,800. Since 2011, the VA2K Walk & Roll event has generated donations valued at more than $1.73 million to help homeless Veterans.
Nothing beats peer support when it comes to creating communities to address life challenges - especially when that challenge is something as overwhelming as homelessness, and your community is one that's made up of heroes who served their country.
To read about a local community of veterans who are invested in helping their fellow warriors - look no further. Our veteran partners at the Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs are dedicated to reaching other veterans struggling with PTSD and other combat related issues. In fact, the Mighty Oaks' mission is for warriors to become strong so that they can turn around and help lift others up. They practice this message in their program, with a leadership team that is composed entirely of graduates from their Fight Club program. You can follow their work here.