IAFC members help build safe, stable communities—where everyone should have a place to call home. Firefighters and rescue teams are at the front line of the nationwide effort to end homelessness. As a first responder in a leadership position, you have the power to identify veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless and to raise awareness of the resources available to them.
For service members reentering civilian life, the transition can be difficult. Veterans may face obstacles including a lack of employment opportunities, mental health challenges and financial hardship, which can lead to homelessness if unaddressed. Fire and rescue professionals are in a unique position to help this population.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is working to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. The IAFC is proud to support the VA’s efforts, and we encourage all our members to help. The VA has increased the funding and resources available to provide individualized, comprehensive care that includes healthcare, employment, education and housing assistance. The VA works tirelessly to help veterans and their families find and maintain safe and stable housing, and we applaud its efforts.
Here are some ways IAFC members can help the VA help veterans:
- Watch this Help for Homeless Veterans: First Responders video (on YouTube) to learn how to help veterans who are struggling to get back on track and share it with your colleagues.
- Ask members of your community who lack safe, stable housing if they served in the military. If you encounter a veteran who is homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, encourage the individual to call 877-4AID-VET or chat online on the VA's Homeless webpage to learn more or to be connected with the support services the VA offers.
- Order free materials that promote the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans and other VA services for veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Visit the VA's Materials Center to order brochures, posters, wallet cards, bandanas, magnets, hygiene coolers, pens and more to keep in your fire rig or ambulance in case you encounter someone who needs support. Wallet and tear cards are particularly appropriate to have on board, as they take up little space and can be distributed easily. Posters and brochures are useful to have in stations, where the public may seek information or assistance.
As you work to keep individuals and families in your community safe, remember: we can all do something to help end veteran homelessness.