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Background of the Problem
Since 1896, Volunteers of America has responded to the continuity of needs with concern as well as consistency. When United States entered World War I, American Volunteers focused their efforts on “Holding the Home Lines.” Care for children as well as housing for women expanded (Ambrosino et al, 2011). Canteens and accommodations were opened for servicemen. During the Second World War, Volunteers of America expanded as well as adapted services to support servicemen. Mothers also engaged in defense work. New programs that were meant to combat rising juvenile delinquency were adopted (Cortes, 2009).
In 1950, the organization initiated a campaign against alarming public indifference and even hostility to policemen. United States of America in 1980s experienced a crisis concerning the homeless veterans and homelessness. It began providing numerous emergency shelters. Then the U.S. government responded through its department of Veterans Affairs which in 1987 initiated supportive services for homelessness and homeless Veterans. The Volunteers of America quickly intervened and partnered, opening new housing and support services for homeless veterans (Ambrosino et al, 2011).
Therefore, the social problem of homelessness has existed in the United States for decades. The problem came into the attention of the United States government in 1970s and 1980s. During this period, the number of homeless persons increased as well as their visibility. McNamara (2008) notes that, the rise in number of homelessness was caused by the rapid single room demolition commonly known as “skid rows.” The skid rows were occupied by single men. The homelessness was also caused by the decreased availability of the affordable housing, reduced need for seasonal unskilled labor. In addition, the reduced likelihood that relatives were to accommodate homeless family members as well as the reduced value of public benefits was among the major causes of homelessness (Burt, 2003).
Homelessness occurs among families with children and single individuals in rural communities as well as large urban cities and for a varying time period. Period of homelessness may vary from days to years depending on the circumstances. Empirical studies have created three categories of homelessness. The first category is known as the transitionally homeless veterans who comprise veterans that have a short stay in a homeless shelter before returning to permanent housing (Jansson, 2011).
The second category has episodically homeless veterans who frequently move in an out of the homeless. However, they do not remain homeless for a long time. Finally, the third category has chronically homeless veterans who are homeless continuously for a period of one year or have at least four episodes of homelessness in three years (McNamara, 2008). Chronically homeless veterans often suffer from mental illness or substance use disorders.
Scope of the Problem
The Veteran Administration (VA) estimates that there were approximate 107,000 veterans on one night in January 2009. This represents a decrease from the approximated 131,000 in the previous year. In the recent years, there is a decline in the estimates of the number of homeless veterans. This decline primarily reflects better methods of counting and estimating as well as the inclusion of the veterans in the reduction process (McNamara, 2008).
Veterans are over-represented among the homeless people. This is indicated by the past studies. The studies revealed that up to a third of the adult homeless men are veterans and approximately 44,000 to 66,000 Veterans are chronically homeless. The 2009 HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report indicates that about 15 percent of all homeless adults surveyed on a single night of January 2009 are Veterans (Jansson, 2011).
The VA services indicated that 96 percent of the homeless Veterans are males while only 4 percent are female. However, there is a recent in the number of female homeless veterans as well as homeless veterans with dependent children as reported by the VA and the Veteran service providers (Burt, 2003). Majority of the veterans live single life with a high risk of homelessness in social isolations. The problem of homelessness in the United States worsened resulting from veterans who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. These veterans had high rates of post traumatic disorder (PTSD) that resulted from combat trauma or military sexual trauma. PTSD also contributes to substance abuse problems (McNamara, 2008). The veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan experienced other mental health problems such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that resulted in cognitive impairments and social relationship difficulties. They also had high rates of alcohol as well as substance abuse. In addition, conflicts were prevalent among these Veterans due multiple as well as extended deployments (Burt, 2003).
Social interaction approaches to understanding Homelessness
Sociology provides an examination of human behavior and the correspondent society. It is the study of humans in the group and how they interact with one another. Sociologists examine these groups by looking at certain behavior in order to have an in depth understanding of such behavior (Adetula, 2010). Symbolic interactions tend to examine phenomena by paying full attention to the micro level of sociology.
In Gesellschaft societies such as the United States, prevailing core values dictates that people should be able to take care of themselves. As a result, many people perceive the homeless as “throwaways.” Some argue that the homeless Veterans made their own bad decisions, which led them into alcoholism as well as drug addiction and should be held responsible for the consequences of their own actions (Adetula, 2010).
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In this sense, homeless people serve as a visible example to others to abide by the rules lest they experience a similar fate. Alternatively, homelessness is rooted in poverty; homeless people are poor who come from poor families. According to McNamara ( 2008), Homelessness is a social class experience, the direct result of a steady, across-the-board lowering of the standard of living of the working class and lower class. As the standard of living falls, those at the bottom rungs of society are plunged into homelessness. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of jobs (Adetula, 2010).
It is clear that there lacks a simple answer concerning what needs be done to assist homeless. However, the answers that we derive as a society and as individuals are often based on our personal social construction of this reality of life (Burt, 2003). The Veteran Administration should provide affordable, permanent and supportive housing as well as transitional housing for homeless veterans and their families. Comprehensive and corroborative supportive services like outreach as well as assessments, mechanisms for case management and emergency services need to be established to take care of the victims already languishing in the pain of living as homelessnes and homeless victims (McNamara, 2008).
Volunteers of America should also offer transitional treatment programs as well as providing residential therapeutic treatment for veterans recovering from substance addiction. The VA should also offer special need services for the frail elderly and veterans with mental illness. In addition, the VA should increase opportunities for meaningful as well as sustainable employment to absorb Veterans (Jansson, 2011).
Homeless veterans are prepared to re-enter the labor force through employment and training, as well as connecting to community support services. A special feature of the program should include outreach programs from veterans who have experienced homelessness themselves. Employment programs should also include compensated work therapy, through which veterans learn new skills on the job. According to Ambrosino et al (2011), absorbing of veterans in various job opportunities will reduce their financial vulnerability which in turn will reduce homelessness.
Mechanisms should be established to improve homeless crisis response systems by the government and other well wishers to help those who are affected and about to be affected (Adetula, 2010). The target group should be Veterans who are at-risk or experiencing homelessness that operate in these key areas. As for other populations, however, the complexity of navigating systems makes it difficult for Veterans to get their needs met and for resources used in the most efficient manner. In addition, transitional housing programs, licensed as alcohol and drug treatment centers should be established to rehabilitate veterans (McNamara, 2008).
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