The state of California has the highest population in the U.S. thanks to its many urban areas, like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. Unfortunately, because of its high population it is also home to many homeless Americans, including veterans. While ideally no American should be homeless, it is unfortunate that many of the men and women who serve in the military return to America to find themselves without a job or a home. The state of California should make it a priority to help its homeless veterans get off the streets because of their great service to this nation. To decrease the population of homeless veterans in California, the state government should provide the following: mental health services following discharge; funding for veterans’ homeless shelters; more affordable permanent housing; a job networking program; and scholarship opportunities.
California should provide more mental health services to veterans following their discharge from military service. A significant percentage of veterans experience mental health problems, specifically PTSD and substance abuse, because of the trauma they face at war. According to Susan Ladika, close to half of veterans who served after 9/11 suffered some form of mental illness, and 35% received treatment for mental illness (Ladika, 2019). A study led by researchers Marilyn Winkleby and Diane Fleshin also found that homeless veterans have a higher alcohol intake than nonveterans (Winkleby, Fleshin, 1993). In order to lessen the percentage of veterans suffering from mental diseases, the California government can provide funding to veterans’ organizations such as the Veterans Village and the Fisher House Foundation, allowing them to establish therapy and rehab centers exclusively for veterans. These therapy centers can give veterans access to therapists, therapy dogs, and even a temporary shelter if they should need it. Treating the mental health problems many veterans face will allow for a smoother transition into civilian life and decrease the percentage of homeless veterans in California.
The state government can also fund these organizations to move veterans off the street and into transitional homes as rapidly as possible. According to Alan Greenblatt, Los Angeles County passed a ballot measure in 2017, creating a comprehensive homeless program that is expected to get over 90% of its homeless population off the street (Greenblatt, 2017). Additionally, in her article ‘Veterans Struggles’, Ladika discusses the research of the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), indicating that the percentage of homeless veterans has significantly declined since the VA has started working with veterans’ charities and organizations (Ladika, 2019). Like Los Angeles and the VA, the California government should provide a certain amount of funding to veterans’ organizations, like the Veterans Village and the Fisher House Foundation, to provide transitional housing for veterans in need. These transitional housing facilities may even provide amenities in addition to food and shelter, such as therapy and help finding employment. If the state government provides funding to veterans’ organizations to create temporary housing, the percentage of homeless veterans in California will significantly decrease.
In addition to funding temporary homeless shelters, California should make permanent housing more affordable for veterans. Since California is the most populous state in the union, its housing market is one of the most expensive, making it extremely difficult for struggling veterans to find a home. According to Peter Katel, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) started providing housing vouchers to veterans in order to help them buy permanent homes, helping more than 73,000 as of 2014 (Katel, 2014). The state government can revise current laws to expand on this HUD policy, mandating more residential areas for affordable housing for veterans. By reserving more areas to be affordable, more veterans will have the opportunity to find a house in the state of California.
California should create a job networking program to connect veterans to new career opportunities. Ladika states, that the majority of service members are not sufficiently prepared to return to civilian life before their discharge, stating that 20% of them turn to alcohol abuse and only 25% have another job ready after their discharge (Ladika, 2019). Kimberly Curry Hall’s team also address this problem in their book Veteran Employment, claiming that many veterans do not know how to find connections to jobs that are relevant to their abilities and many companies do not know how to find veterans (Hall et al, 2014). The state government can solve this problem by establishing a job networking program. Like an employment agency, the program can find potential career matches for veterans by looking at local availabilities and individual resumes. Ideally, the program will connect veterans to their dream career after the service, but it will also help veterans find some form of employment to support themselves. By connecting veterans to jobs and salaries, the Veterans Networking Program can ensure that less veterans become homeless after their discharge.
Additionally, California should provide more scholarship opportunities to veterans. In ‘Veteran Employment’, Hall and her team found that companies seeking exclusively employees with college degrees are less likely to hire veterans, and only a small percentage of companies will hire veterans for a certain level of employment (Hall et al, 2014). Veterans that do not have college experience or a degree qualify for less job opportunities. The state government should offer more scholarship opportunities for veterans to entice them to get a college degree if they do not have one. The state should also provide more federal student aid to veterans to make this higher education more affordable. By assisting veterans in paying for college after their discharge, the state can ensure that more veterans have a chance to find another career after their service.
Overall, California can decrease its percentage of homeless veterans by providing funding to veterans’ organizations, expanding current housing policies, creating a job networking program, and offering more scholarships to veterans. With more state funding, veterans’ organizations can create more therapy centers and transitional housing centers specifically for veterans. By expanding a current policy that mandates certain neighborhoods to have affordable housing, veterans with little to no income will have more options to choose from when buying a home. A job networking program can connect unemployed veterans to possibly career opportunities after they have been discharged. Lastly, more scholarship opportunities and student aid packages will encourage veterans to pursue a college degree if they haven’t already, bettering their chances of finding another job after their service. By implementing at least one of these policy ideas, the state of California will see a decrease in their high population of homeless veterans.
- Greenblatt, A. (2017, August 4). Poverty and homelessness. CQ researcher. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/
- Hall, K., Harrell, M., Bicksler, B., Stewart, R., & Fisher, M. (2014). Hiring Veterans. In Veteran Employment: Lessons from the 100,000 Jobs Mission (pp. 7-16). RAND Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt14bs4jf.6
- Katel, P. (2014, October 10). Housing the homeless. CQ Researcher, 24, 841-864. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/
- Ladika, S. (2019, October 4). Veterans' struggles. CQ researcher, 29, 1-55. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/
- Winkleby, M., & Fleshin, Diane. (1993). Physical, Addictive, and Psychiatric Disorders among Homeless Veterans and Nonveterans. Public Health Reports (1974-), 108(1), 30-36. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4597281