Working to keep our military veterans from homelessness

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Happy Independence Day to you and your family. On July 4th we celebrate the birth of our nation and the many people who have contributed to making the United States fair, peaceful and respectful to all. Our nation has set the bar around the world in terms of justice and opportunity. We are a nation of people from many backgrounds and beliefs, but we come together as Americans to celebrate our rights, our travails and our future.

This July 4th I will be thinking about people who have served our country — whether in elected office, a government position, the Peace Corps, or in particular, in the military. Thank you to everyone who has given of themselves to make our community and our nation strong and beautiful. The passion of our service is strong in the U.S. and I’m proud to be of that tradition.

Alaska has the highest number of veterans per capita of any state in the union. It is a tragedy to see that veterans experience homelessness at a higher rate than the general population across the country. There is a national movement, started under President Obama, to end veteran homelessness, and Anchorage is a strong participant. Veterans are a vital part of our community and working with them to foster stable and self-sufficient lives is incredibly important.

At Catholic Social Services, our Supportive Services for Veteran Families provides help throughout the community focusing on military veterans experiencing homelessness. The special program is available for low-income veterans and families and helps them find housing, VA and other benefits, jobs and other services. Our case managers work to address the needs of our clients and support them on a path of self-sufficiency.

Dwight is an Army veteran who served as an airborne combat medic during his time in the military. Now at 70 years old, he suffers from chest pains and other medical issues and battles PTSD from time to time.

Dwight arrived at Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage a few months ago from the Domiciliary, which is a housing and treatment facility run by the VA. With the help from one of our Supportive Services for Veteran Families case managers, he very recently found housing at Sitka Place, a permanent supportive housing project run by Rural CAP. He is on his way to recovery and hopefully working again, when he is able.

As a combat medic during his time in the Army, Dwight sees his current calling to help his brothers-in-arms. His passion is standing up and raising funds for homeless veterans in our community. Other veterans see him as an inspiration and know that if he can work toward — and find — a permanent home then they can find a place to call home too. He has seen a past filled with troubles and homelessness, but it doesn’t stop him from helping other veterans experiencing the same issues.

Dwight has been giving back to his nation and his community for his entire life, and continues that effort, even at the most difficult times.

We honor Dwight and all U.S. veterans this Independence Day. We thank you for your service and we will continue to work to assure that even in your most challenging times, homelessness is not an issue you will face.

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more on CSS, call 222-7300 or visit cssalaska.org.


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