Department of New Jersey focused on permanent housing for homeless veterans
Since 2012, the American Legion Department of New Jersey has hosted 16 stand downs for homeless and at-risk veterans and managed 972 homeless cases.
But department officials know addressing the homeless veteran issue isn’t simply a case of finding shelter. There’s the need to find steady employment. There are those who are in the criminal justice system. And there’s the mental health issues that can often lead a veteran to the streets.
“Our homeless are three times as more prevalent to commit suicide as those not (homeless),” said Bob Looby, chairman of the department’s Employment, Homeless and Education Committee. “Now if that’s not a direct connection…”
As part of a roundtable discussion on homeless veterans at February’s Washington Conference, Looby urged those in attendance to follow up when working with homeless veterans in their communities.
“After every stand down, after every resource fair, you must get on the phone and call that person (or go see them in person),” he said. “Get them registered with the VA, not just for the benefits, but for the connectiveness.”
In New Jersey, Legion officials have recognized that while transitional housing can help, there’s a need for permanent housing to address the homeless issue.
“It’s a solution for six months, two years,” Looby said of transitional housing.
Among the successes in New Jersey is Post 107 in Hoboken. After the original post home was heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, a new post home was built with six fully furnished apartments for homeless veterans. They’re in the process of expanding the Veterans Center of Hoboken to 18 more apartments where veterans can live indefinitely.
“Homelessness among our veterans is not going away, so that just gives credence that we need more not just transitional housing, but permanent housing,” Looby said.