Homelessness among veterans is an issue that has been causing concern within the American community. Most of these veterans are forced to live in cheap neighborhoods where gun violence is very prevalent. A study by Lusk, Staudt, and Moya (2012), shows that subjecting these veterans to constant gun violence causes emotional stress to them. This study further indicated that most of them are still struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) based on the memories of the events they went through while fighting to defend the United States.
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Some were seriously tortured or were forced to kill, while others witnessed painful deaths of their colleagues on the battlefield. These memories do not give them peace and the psychologists who work with these people often try to find ways of making them forget their past. Achieving this is not very easy, especially when they are forced to stay in dilapidated houses and in neighborhoods where gun violence is very common. The sound of the gun makes these people relieve their painful past in their minds, and this causes them great emotional pain. It is, therefore, important to come up with ways of solving this housing problem among the veterans.
This social problem primarily affects the veterans who are forced to live in neighborhoods where gun violence is very common. The family members of these veterans are also subjected to unfair torture as they struggle to care for their traumatized relatives. Healthcare service providers, especially psychologists, also get affected because the number of patients they have to deal with increases. Given that most of them are poor, healthcare service providers must be ready to offer the services at subsidized prices.
Homelessness among veterans is a problem that affects a number of stakeholders. The veterans themselves and their families are important stakeholders because they are directly affected by this problem. They are also the first line of help when it comes to solving this problem. The government of the United States is also another important stakeholder. The veterans are former employees of the federal government hence they deserve some form of help from it. The entire American community that at one time relied on the protection offered by the veterans should also feel responsible when it comes to finding a lasting solution to this problem.
It is important to define some of the terms used in this paper to enhance the clarity of the paper. The following are the important terms used.
- Homelessness- a state where an individual is forced to live in places not meant for habitation by human.
- Veterans- people who served in the American military and are now retired.
- PTDS- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Change agent- a person who brings about change.
- Advocacy- public support for a given policy.
- Stakeholders- individuals who are affected by or can affect policies.
Homelessness among veterans is a problem that has been witnessed in this country for a long time. During the First and the Second World War, the United States of America was forced to recruit able-bodied men to serve the country. They were taken through short training before being sent to the field. A good number died on the battlefield. Many survived and came back home after the war. Others went to fight post-Second World Wars such as the Vietnam War. Jansson (2013) says that it is, unfortunately, most of them could not get decent jobs after leaving the service.
Some of these heroes who protected this country for a long time retired having saved very little. It meant that they had to look for neighborhoods where the cost of living, especially the cost of rent, is relatively low. Over the past two decades, this problem has become worse, especially due to the rising cost of living in the United States and the pressure on the housing sector due to increasing population in most of the major urban centers.
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This problem is not ideological in nature. It is a problem that all Americans appreciate should be solved by offering these veterans special care as an appreciation to the great work they did in shaping the future of the country.
According to Schneider and Lester (2001), when looked at from a socio-cultural perspective, it is clear that most of the homeless veterans are African Americans. This is specifically so because of the high levels of poverty among African Americans. Most of the family members of these veterans find it difficult to care for their aging relatives because they earn very little and are barely managing to care for their families. The thought of caring for an elderly veteran who needs more attention than their young children is always unwelcome. The situation is worsened by the fact that some of these veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, making most of their relatives fear to stay with them not only because of the cost of meeting their maintenance needs but also the fear that they may be violent.
Prevalence and statistics
The problem of homelessness among American veterans has widely been documented. It is important to review the statistics that exist in this problem. The figure below shows the distribution of homeless veterans based on the era they served
Most of the homeless veterans (47%) served during the Vietnam War. Most scholars have blamed this on the fact that when the war came to an end, many of the soldiers were dismissed from the service soon after coming from the international service. They lacked specialized skills in the military hence they were of little service to a military that was modernizing its warfare. Another significant population of homeless veterans (30%) served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When the United States, under the leadership of former President George Bush declared war on terror in 2001, many soldiers were sent to Afghanistan and later to Iraq to fight Al Qaeda and its sympathizers. Most of these soldiers stayed in the Middle East until the new regime of President Barrack Obama took power. The new regime started pulling the American military away from Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of them had to leave the service either because of their age or their relevance in the streamlined and modernized American military system. They became homeless soon after being retired. 15% of the veterans served in the pre-Vietnam period soon after the Second World War. Another 8% served in other conflicts.
Causes and consequences of the problem
According to Becker (2013), one of the primary causes of homelessness among veterans is the lack of proper savings and investment at the time of retirement. Most of the American military officers stay in the military bases provided by the government. When they leave the service, they realize that renting a decent home is very costly because most of them neither save for retirement nor invest their money into viable businesses. The problem of homelessness among veterans is also caused by a lack of support from family members. Some of the members of the family of these veterans often fail to stay with these veterans or even offer them some little financial support. Jansson (2011) says that this problem is prevalent because the government has also failed to provide adequate social security for these veterans.
Advocacy for change
As a change agent, it is important to find a solution to this problem. The veterans did a great work in protecting the nation and they played a leading role in shaping current America that we have today. They helped the country to emerge as a Super Power, and therefore, have all the rights to enjoy some of the primary benefits such as basic housing facilities. All the stakeholders, especially the federal government, family members, and individual American citizens, should feel obligated to protect the veterans by providing them with the basic. The problem can be solved through various strategies.
Homelessness among veterans is an issue that is affecting every American. It is, therefore, important to come up with various ways of solving this problem at different levels.
Micro (client) level
At the micro-level, family members should be individually responsible for providing care for the veterans who may happen to be their grandparents, parents or close relative. Basic care may include offering them shelter, giving them food, clothing, and paying for their medical bills (Smith, 2015). For veterans with large families, care can be offered on a rotational basis. However, this should only be done with the approval of the veterans. If they prefer staying with a specific family, then they should be granted their wish.
Mezzo (community) level
The problem of homelessness among veterans can also be solved at the community level. Members of the community can come together and put up a home for the veterans and other elderly members of the community. In such homes, all the basic needs should be provided and it should be put up in a safe neighborhood where instances such as gun violence are not common. Members of the community should visit these veterans and actively engage them in the general development of the community.
Macro (policy) level
At the national level, the state and federal governments should come up with policies that can help protect the interest of the veterans after they retire. A policy can be developed to increase the social security contributions by the federal government to the saving of the veterans so that their lifestyles do not change drastically soon after leaving the service. The federal government should also ensure that most of the soldiers are allowed to serve in the military until the set age limit to avoid cases where some of them are rendered jobless because of the premature dismissal. The state government can develop homes for the veterans that are insecure neighborhood so that as soon as they retire, they can get care and protection they need.
Reflections on the personal strengths and weaknesses in terms of leadership and communication
Reflective analysis of my leadership and communication skills reveals a number of strengths and weaknesses. One of my main leadership strengths is the ability to involve people when looking for a solution. I strongly believe that when people come together to address a given problem, then it becomes easy to find a solution. I also believe in delegating duties responsibly as a way of ensuring that things are done as per the expectations.
I know that sometimes a leader may not be present in all the places as would be desired. As such, some tasks should be assigned to equally capable individuals within the group. In communication, my greatest strength is that I am a good listener. Before reacting to a given issue, I prefer listening to all the parties involved before acting upon it. I am also persuasive in my debates. My greatest weakness as a leader is that sometimes I am too trusting.
I believe that every person whom I interact with has good intentions and that such meetings would yield good fruits for all the people involved. However, I have come to learn from experience that not every person whom we interact with has good intentions for us. I still need to learn how to differentiate genuine friends from pretenders. In communication, I have a weakness in managing arguments, especially if it is not supported by facts. I often insist that every argument should be supported by some form of evidence. If that is not done that way, then I easily get drifted away, making it difficult to continue with such debates. I need to address these weaknesses
Personal goals surrounding advocacy
In this advocacy program, my personal goal is to ensure that no single veteran is in the street or staying in some unsafe neighborhoods where their health conditions may be jeopardized. Studies have shown that a good number of these veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of the events that they went through during the period that they served outside the country. As a psychologist, I know that it is important to offer these veterans safe homes where they can spend their old age without being subjected to unnecessary stress. Some of the neighborhoods where gun violence is prevalent are not appropriate for them.
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It is not because they are more vulnerable to gun violence than other members of society. In fact, they are better positioned to protect themselves from such criminals because of the training they had and the long experience serving in the American military. However, the constant sounds of gun fires evoke the sad or horrific memories they had while serving in the military. As Hoefer (2016) says when a person witness’s close friend mercilessly butchered by the enemy, the terrifying memory remains in the mind. Every time something happens that reminds the person of the past events, he or she gets scared.
This is even worse among the veterans who are suffering from PTSD. I am, therefore, convinced that these heroes need to be protected at all costs. They need to be provided with homes that are safe and where they can get professional care from psychologists and other healthcare experts. These homes should make it possible for them to lead private lives and still be social as per their wish.
Becker, J. (2013). Campaigning for justice: Human rights advocacy in practice. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. Web.
Hoefer, R. (2016). Advocacy practice for social justice. Chicago, Ill: Lyceum Books. Web.
Jansson, B. S. (2011). Becoming an effective policy advocate: From policy practice to social justice. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. Web.
Jansson, B. S. (2013). Becoming an effective policy advocate: From policy practice to social justice. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. Web.
Lusk, M. W., Staudt, K. A., & Moya, E. (2012). Social justice in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Dordrecht: Springer. Web.
Schneider, R. L., & Lester, L. (2001). Social work advocacy: A new framework for action. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. Web.
Shumsky, N. L. (2012). Homelessness: A documentary and reference guide. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood. Web.
Smith, J. (2015). Advocacy Practice for Social Justice, Incorporating Advocacy into the Generalist Model. New York, NY: Cengage. Web.