Mr. John William Turner, Executive Director of Veterans Leadership Council of North Carolina – Cares, addressed the club Wednesday about the dire need for veteran homeless care. North Carolina is home to over 800,000 veterans and has the greatest number of active duty troops on the East Coast.
Currently it is estimated that 20% of all homeless individuals in North Carolina are Veterans, and recent unemployment figures indicate that unemployment among Veterans age 18-26 is twice that of their non-veteran peers. In addition, there are approximately 22 Veteran suicides each day in the U.S., which projects to one every day in North Carolina. In spite of a significant military presence, and the number of Veterans in distress, North Carolina has relatively few resources available to Veterans who struggle with making the transition from military life and/or combat, and a glaring lack of coordinated reintegration resources. For homeless Veterans, receiving help and finding shelter is extremely difficult due to the shortage of treatment beds in North Carolina.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) records indicate only 1100 transitional/ treatment beds statewide, including the only operational transitional housing facility in North Carolina dedicated to Veterans, in Asheville. Yet, the number of veterans in distress is on the rise. What makes these figures even more disturbing is that the statistics from VA only show the number of homeless veterans who are seen at the VA. However, many homeless Veterans never make it that far. VLC-CARES research indicates that VA-reported figures are low – by as much as 100%. The Department recently reported that fewer than 50% of returning Veterans have even registered with the VA – highlighting challenges in the VA’s outreach strategies or resources.
In Fiscal Year 2013, a total of 8,825 unique individual homeless veterans contacted VA facilities in North Carolina. High unemployment rates and reduced federal, state and local budgets will only compound the problem as a new generation of Veterans returns home from combat. In addition, the planned reductions in force, which are already underway, will result in increased numbers of combat troops released from service. At VLCNC-CARES, our goal is successful community reintegration for every North Carolina Veteran, but the path to that goal is different for each one of them. We are the only statewide Veterans organization designed to provide the specialized services, counseling, training and mentoring to return our suffering heroes to self-reliance.
For more information about the VLCNC, please visit their website at http://www.vlccares.org