From Construction Sites to Constructed Housing: Resources for Homeless Veterans

From Construction Sites to Constructed Housing: Resources for Homeless Veterans

Introduction

With projects commonly spanning multiple years, generally offering quiet at night, and typically containing portable restrooms and even sometimes electrical outlets, it’s no secret that unsheltered homeless people often spend the night on construction sites, hiding out underneath scaffolding or big equipment. However, this is a dangerous practice – and it’s on the rise.

For the first time in seven years, the number of homeless people in the US has increased, including a rise in the number of homeless veterans. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that at least one-third of homeless people live on the streets as opposed to in shelters, where they face high risks of encountering everything from abuse through lice. Veterans are twice as likely to become homeless as other Americans, due to any number of factors ranging from difficulty transitioning to civilian life through medical problems resulting from their service.

Whether you are homeless, a family member or friend of someone who’s homeless, or just a concerned citizen, you need to know about the resources available to help.

Medical Treatment

After serving your country and returning home, a factor impacting your homelessness may be the prevalence of a serious medical condition, a mental health issue, or a substance use disorder. Whether you are managing an ongoing or chronic condition, or find yourself in need of urgent care to treat an injury, it will be essential to know where to find available, affordable health care.

Resources for General Care

Health Insurance Coverage

Veteran Health Insurance Coverage

Specialized and affordable health care coverage is available for veterans and their families, regardless of income or home status. Veterans who have found themselves dislocated and living in the temporary shelter of a construction or worksite area should seek affordable low-cost or no-cost health care coverage. Residing near construction equipment, cranes, and temporary scaffolding could cause a head-trauma injury in the event of falling debris. If you suffer an accident that will require urgent care, or even if you are suffering from a chronic illness, having access to affordable health care will open up access to a variety of quality health services. Even as a homeless veteran, you may qualify for any of the following health care coverages:

  • TRICARE – TRICARE is the health care program for uniformed service members. TRICARE is available to active duty and retired members of the: U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service and the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and their families. TRICARE provides comprehensive coverage, such as:
    • Health plans
    • Special programs
    • Prescriptions
    • Dental plans
  • VA Health Care – The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is America’s most extensive integrated health care system with more than 1,200 sites of care. If you served in the active military, naval or air service and are separated under any condition other than dishonorable, you may qualify for VA health care benefits.
  • State-Based Health Coverage – Depending on your state, additional low cost or no-cost health care coverage options may be available to you. For example, New York State enables qualifying veterans to obtain free health care and prescriptions. Check with your state VA office for more information on local partnerships and programs.
  • The National Guard Association of the United States Insurance Trust (NGAYS-IT) – For members of the National Guard, NGAYS-IT provides access to a variety of insurance plans. Available coverage includes Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) Insurance, Technician Disability Insurance, a Preferred Vision Care Plan, Hearing Care, Term Life Insurance, Long Term Care, Short Term Recovery Care, and TRICARE Supplemental plans.

Free and Affordable Health Care Clinics

Regardless of whether or not you have health insurance coverage, most communities make available low cost and no cost health care clinics for low-income and homeless civilian and veteran Americans. While homelessness is on the rise in major cities across the United States, these cities often offer a more significant number of homeless and veteran support resources available. You may also be at risk of suffering an accidental injury if you are spending time on an unsecured construction site and around potentially hazardous construction equipment such as scaffolding, dozers, backhoes, and excavators. Especially if you will be sleeping in an area with hazardous construction equipment, know the location of your closest medical clinic. The following resources may be able to help you find a low-cost or no-cost clinic in your area:

  • Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Program – A service made available by the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), HCHV aims to connect health care providers and community-based residential treatments with homeless veterans in need. If you have access to a phone, call the VA’s toll-free hotline for more information: 1-877-4AID-VET.
  • VA’s Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) Program – Provides medical services to disadvantaged veterans using modern, advanced clinical techniques in a residential setting for 24/7 support. The program aims to enable veterans to live independent, fulfilling, and healthy lives.
  • VA’s Homeless Veterans Dental Program – Provides dental treatment for eligible veterans through a partnership with a variety of VA programs.
  • Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) – The Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America’s (IAVA) high-tech, high-touch case management, and referral services program. RRRP’s qualified Veteran Transition Managers act as transition navigators and advocates, assisting veterans to identify and access top benefits and governmental and nongovernmental services.
  • National Health Care for the Homeless Council – A membership organization that connects those in need with peers, specialists, and resources to eliminate homelessness through health care and housing.
  • Disabled Veterans National Foundation – Provides critically needed support to disabled and at-risk veterans who leave the military wounded, either physically or psychologically. The organization offers support for homeless veterans, providing resources for mental and physical wellness, and grant funding.
  • FindCare.org – An online resource that allows you to search for free or affordable health care clinics online by zip code.
  • The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC) – An organization that aims to ensure that the medically underserved, including homeless veterans, have access to affordable quality healthcare. You may also be able to find a C.A.R.E Clinic hosted by NAFC in your area. C.A.R.E. (Communities Are Responding Every Day) Clinics turn convention centers or arena floors into large-scale doctors’ offices for a day. On average, each clinic has over 60 patient exam rooms, testing centers, mental health services, and vision and dental examinations.
  • Partnership for Prescription Assistance – The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) is an organization sponsored by America’s biopharmaceutical research companies. It is a free, confidential service that helps connect uninsured and underinsured patients, including veterans, to programs that provide prescription medicines for free or nearly free.
  • Planned Parenthood – If you are a homeless, female veteran who is expecting a baby, you may be able to find affordable health care from Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides quality health care and such services as general health care, HIV services, patient education services, and men’s health services as well.
  • Your municipal health department – You may be able to obtain free or low-cost health care from your city or county’s health department. Stop by your local municipal health office to ask what resources may be available to you, given your income and homelessness status.
  • Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s HealthFinder.gov – This online resource offers a directory of public health services by state.

Mental Health and Substance Use Resources for Homeless Veterans

According to the VA, as many as 80 percent of homeless Veterans suffer from mental health and/or substance use disorders. For homeless veterans to obtain stable employment, and the income needed to rent or purchase their own home, they need support and treatment to manage their mental health or substance use disorder. The number of homeless veterans living with a mental health disorder, especially depression, anxiety, or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), can be extremely challenging for those forced to seek shelter in or around a construction zone where the veteran may be exposed to unexpected loud noises and dangerous construction equipment.

A variety of programs are available both from the VA and other government agencies, as well as from a variety of non-profit organizations that have committed themselves to helping homeless veterans suffering from a mental health or substance use issue, to recover successfully. Consider seeking support from any of the resources below.

Where to seek legal help

Veteran Legal Help

Seeking shelter in a construction zone poses serious hazards. You could be at risk of a slip and fall, get hit directly or by debris from heavy equipment like skid steers, or you may inadvertently damage someone else’s property. If you are in need of legal assistance, for any reason, but fear you do not have the financial means necessary to retain a lawyer, know that there are resources available to help you receive legal advice and guidance.

  • The VA Office of General Counsel – Some VA facilities partner with non-VA legal service providers that can assist veterans free of charge.
  • The VA’s Justice Outreach (VJO) Program – This program aims to avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among veterans by ensuring that eligible, justice-involved veterans have timely access to clinically-indicated VHA services. The VJO’s specialists provide direct outreach, assessment, and case management for justice-involved veterans in local courts and jails and liaison with identified justice system partners.
  • National Veterans Legal Service Program (NVLSP) – A not-for-profit entity working to ensure that the government delivers entitled benefits to veterans and active duty personnel due to disabilities resulting from their military service. NVLSP offers such programs as:
    • Lawyers Serving Warriors® – A program that provides free legal representation to veterans and active duty personnel through a national network of major law firms and corporate legal departments.
    • Individual Representation – NVLSP attorneys assist veterans, free of charge, to obtain disability benefits.
    • Class Actions – Through class action lawsuits, NVLSP brings claims on behalf of large groups of individuals that have been wrongfully denied earned benefits.
  • State Side Legal – An organization that provides free legal assistance for low-income military members, veterans, and their families. You can search based on your geography.
  • Legal Services Corporation (LSC) – An independent nonprofit that aims to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. Again, they offer a locator tool so you can find legal assistance near you.
  • GI Rights Hotline – A service offering free, confidential, and accurate information on U.S. military regulations and practices to service members, veterans, potential recruits, and their families. The organization operates as a consortium of nearly 20 non-governmental, non-profit organizations located in eleven states and Germany. Counselors with a variety of experiences, including veterans and lawyers, are available to assist veterans and military members in need.
  • American Bar Association (ABA) Pro Bono Resources for Veterans – The ABA offers resources for veterans to assist with medical care challenges, disability benefits, reemployment rights, consumer, housing, criminal and family law matters, and obtaining legal counsel.
  • Justice for Vets – An organization dedicated to transforming the way the justice system identifies, assesses, and treats veterans. It provides training and technical assistance to help communities bring together local, state, and federal resources to serve veterans involved in the justice system due to mental health disorders, trauma, and substance use. Justice for Vets has helped to establish over 200 veterans treatment courts. It is a division of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, based in Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Lawyers for Heroes – Established by The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Lawyers for Heroes offers a collaboration with the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the Public Counsel Law Center, and the American Bar Association to provide a package of legal resources for military caregivers. The MOAA Caregiver Guide is likely our favorite resource of the bunch.
  • State VA Offices – The Veterans Affairs Office in your state may provide legal assistance; this resource lets you search for the office closest to you.
  • Legal Connection: Military Matters – Located in Kansas City, this program, offered by the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Foundation, aims to fill the gap in legal services available to veterans and active duty military personnel living in the greater Kansas City Metropolitan area.
  • The Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic at The John Marshall Law School – Located in Chicago, IL, The Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic provides free legal assistance for veterans who have been denied benefits by the Veterans Benefits Administration.
  • Veterans Clinic at the University of Missouri School of Law – Located in Columbia, Missouri, the University’s law students assist veterans, and their families secure disability benefits.
  • The University of San Diego Veterans Legal Clinic – Located in San Diego, California, this legal clinic represents veterans who find themselves in a dispute with a for-profit education company over the use of GI Bill funds or related education loans. It also offers free assistance navigating VA disability claims and appeals and represents veterans applying for a correct characterization of their military service discharge so that they may receive proper benefits.
  • Inner City Law Center (ICLC) – Located in Los Angeles, California, this law center helps underserved populations, including homeless veterans. The ICLC also supports women veterans.

Employment and Job-Seeking Services

Veteran Employment

It is estimated that over 10 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, leading both of these factors to be significant causes of homelessness in America, both for veterans and for private citizens. You may be spending your nights seeking shelter under the protection of a partially remodeled or constructed building, apartment complex, or home, but your days can be spent finding a job that will afford you the financial flexibility to get out of the streets and into a house or apartment of your own. A variety of resources are available for veterans to help them develop skills, network, and create resumes and applications to enter the workforce. If you are a homeless veteran in need of work placement assistance, the following resources may help in your job search.

Federal Resources for Housing, Food, Counseling, and Education

Veteran Housing

With homeless people getting killed when sleeping near heavy equipment like wheel loaders and trenchers, it is important to note the resources in place that can help with the transition into stable daily life: obtaining shelter, buying food, seeking counsel, and even obtaining an education. There are a wide range of programs in place at every level – federal, state, and private – to meet these needs.

National Housing Resources

  • HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) – A program managed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that provides housing vouchers and support services to help homeless veterans and their families find permanent housing.
  • Shelter Plus Care (S+C) – Available from the (HUD) Exchange, S+C provides rental assistance in connection with a variety of permanent housing choices, and a range of supportive services for the homeless.
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program – The Federal Government’s primary program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing (including single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments) in the private market. Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHA).
  • VA Home Loans and Grants – If you have been saving your income and believe that with assistance, you are ready to purchase a home of your own, a home loan from the VA may give you the support you need to make a purchase. VA purchase loans require no down payment and no private mortgage insurance.
  • Wounded Warrior Homes – A nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing and resources for Veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI.
  • Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program – A collaboration between state, local, and tribal governments to help provide transitional and short-term housing to homeless veterans.
  • Enhanced-Use Lease (EUL) Program – A VA program that allows for the leasing of designated land and buildings to eligible private entities for approved supportive housing for homeless veterans.
  • Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) ­– Open to very low-income veterans, this program provides case management and support services to prevent the imminent loss of a veteran’s home, or to identify a new housing situation; or rapidly re-house veterans and their families who are homeless and at risk of remaining homeless.
  • Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) – A program that provides shelter and residential care to veterans with multiple challenges, including those suffering from an illness, or in need of rehabilitative support.

National Food Resources

  • Emergency Food Programs – Food Banks across the country supply food to emergency food programs such soup kitchens, food pantries, and temporary housing shelters so that those who are homeless, including U.S. veterans, can still be nourished by a warm meal.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – A food stamp program that offers nutrition assistance to eligible, low-income individuals and families. The program is managed by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and works with state agencies, nutrition educators, neighborhood and faith-based organizations, state partners, and the retail community to enable program success and community outreach.
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) – Veterans who live on Native American reservations or other approved areas may be eligible to participate in FDPIR. The program provides USDA foods to low-income households, including the elderly.
  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) – Provides food support for some supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant women, and to infants and children up to age five. The program is available to female veterans.

National Counseling Resources

  • Mental Health Services Available from the VA – The VA offers veterans such mental health support services as a toll-free national call center for 24/7, confidential support, substance abuse counseling, readjustment counseling, and a crisis support line.
  • Code of Support Foundation – Provides essential and critical one-on-one assistance to struggling service members, veterans and their families, including family support, education, mental health care, legal aid, housing, budget counseling, and other services.
  • Lifeline for Vets – A services provided by the National Veterans Foundation, this program helps veterans of all eras, their family members, and active duty service members by providing medical treatment, PTSD counseling, VA benefits advocacy, food, shelter, employment, training, legal aid, suicide intervention and more.

National Education Resources

State Resources for Housing, Food, Counseling, and Education

Veteran Education

The increase in the homeless population centers around major cities like New York, which actually has the largest homeless population. Regional variations in the numbers of homeless people are reflected in different extents of programming available. It’s a good idea to check at the state and even more local levels to find resources that best target local needs.

State Housing Resources

  • Local Homeless Assistance from HUD – Find resources for the homeless available from HUD in your home state.
  • Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) – Managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, PATH assists individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and have serious mental illnesses. PATH funds are distributed to states and territories that contract with local public or non-profit organizations to fund a variety of services to homeless individuals.
  • Helping Hands for Housing (Texas) – Develops and manages low-cost, affordable, accessible, safe housing for veterans. Also provides job assistance and post-war readjustment counseling.
  • Housing for Heroes (South Dakota) – A designated veteran’s town has been formed in Hot Springs, South Dakota. The community includes ten tiny homes built for veterans that surround a central building with shared resources such as laundry facilities, and nearby medical care.
  • New Beginnings (Florida) – New Beginnings of Tampa provides veterans a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, essential physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment.
  • Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) (Washington, DC and Michigan) – If you are of retirement age and in need of housing, you may be eligible to live in an AFRH residence. Both of its locations offer recreation and wellness services including assisted living and skilled care.

State Food Resources

  • Soldiers Angels (Texas) – Aimed at supporting homeless, low income, or at-risk veterans and their families, the organization provides mobile food distributions and box lunches to veterans in need.
  • Feed Our Vets (New York) – An organization that provides free food assistance to veterans and their family members through community food pantries. Feed Our Vets helps to provide regular, free food to veterans and their families; the distribution of related goods and services; and public education and outreach.

State Counseling Resources

  • BusiNeighbor’s Veteran Center (Georgia) – An organization that has partnered with the VA to reduce suicide among veterans. BusiNeighbor’s Veteran Center offers such support services as counseling, social and recreation services, physical rehabilitation, and family services.
  • TexVet (Texas) – Support for a variety of services are available to veterans in Texas from TexVet, including medical, legal, and homelessness.

State Education Resources

  • Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots (Nevada) – A University of Nebraska – Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) program designed to assist eligible military personnel, their families, and armed forces veterans to become farmers, ranchers, and business entrepreneurs in their next careers.
  • State of Connecticut Office of Higher Education (Connecticut) – Providers a variety of educational resources for U.S. veterans
  • Veterans Farm (Florida and Georgia) – An organization that aims to help veterans reintegrate back into society through the use of a beginning farmer fellowship program. Veterans work together to develop solutions that will enable them to overcome physical and mental barriers and learn the skills and gain the education needed to start a farm of their own, or work for a larger farming organization.
  • State of Massachusetts Veterans Resources (Massachusetts) – The state of Massachusetts provides educational resources for veterans, including financial assistance.
  • F.A.R.M. (Texas) – An organization that provides agricultural training, employment opportunities, and alternative therapies to all military veterans. Its Future Farmer Internship Program is designed to offer opportunities to veterans who desire to explore agricultural careers.
  • Growing Warriors (Kentucky) – Aims to equip and assist military veterans in agriculture production for themselves, their families, and the nation.

Other Coalitions and Outreach Initiatives

There is no shortage of resources for our nation’s heroes. What follows is a list of even more national and regional support organizations for homeless veterans.

  • Swords to Plowshares – This organization offers an integrated network of support to assist with three of the most significant factors impacting veterans: homelessness, unemployment and disability. Located in California, Swords to Plowshares helps veterans in obtaining health and social services, supportive housing, employment and training services, supportive services for veterans’ families, legal services, support for female veterans, and income support services.
  • VFW’s Unmet Needs Financial Grant – Available from the VFW, Unmet Needs aims to assist America’s military families who have run into unexpected financial difficulties as a result of deployment or other military-related activity or injury. The program provides financial aid grants of up to $1,500 to assist with basic life needs with no repayment requirement.
  • Veterans Plus – A financial literacy organization devoted to improving the quality of life of veterans and their families by providing solutions that focus on financial security and support in pursuing their economic goals.
  • Hope for Heroes – An organization that provides our disabled veterans with an opportunity to restore a healthy, active lifestyle by connecting with nature through outdoor activities.
  • National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) ­­– An organization that offers resources and technical assistance for veterans using a national network of community-based service providers and local, state and federal agencies. NCHV provides emergency and supportive housing, food, health services, job training and placement assistance, legal aid and case management support.
  • Team RWB – An organization that aims to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. It creates frequent opportunities for veterans to connect with one another through fitness, sports, and recreation to improve physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
  • DAV – A nonprofit charity that provides support for veterans of all generations and their families. DAV offers rides for veterans attending medical appointments, assists veterans with benefits claims, helps veterans attain new and retroactive benefits, and connects veterans with meaningful employment, housing, job fairs, and other resources. DAV maintains nearly 1,300 chapters around the country.

Conclusion

As a U.S. veteran, you made the ultimate sacrifice to serve your country. Coming home without a place to live and feel safe, after fighting for the safety of our nation, is not how any American wants our heroes to live. If you’ve spent even one night sleeping under the partial construction of a home or building, know that you are entitled to four walls and a roof to call your own. Use the resources in this guide to take the small steps needed to start living the civilian life you deserve.


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