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Silent Homelessness in the Veteran Community

As the Director of Strategic Communications at HomeAgain, I have had the opportunity to interview many of the veteran clients we serve. A recurring theme in my discussions with them, is the fact that many of their families have no idea they are experiencing a housing crisis and living in a shelter. For a while, I wondered why they would not reach out for help from the people who love them the most… the ones they have been tied to their entire lives.

I recently and finally asked, and the answer I got was astounding. A navy veteran living in one of our facilities said, “My family doesn’t know. I will tell them when I’m out… and my ex-wife and my son. It’s something I have to go through personally.” He went on to add, “There are so many resources and a lot of it is self-motivating. I got myself into this mess, and I’m going to get myself out.”

Is this pride or independence? Are they afraid to burden others or to tarnish their image as a strong individual? I believe in many cases, it is both.

Family reunification can be hard for any veteran, let alone one who is homeless. There are several barriers to a veteran’s assimilation post-service, and the military mentality of pride in oneself (although honorable) can be a hinderance to family reintegration and stability.

One veteran told me, ““I had difficulty adjusting to life. It was a struggle… I’m homeless because of a broken marriage. I had decided that the best thing for me to do was to leave and put my life back in order.” Another described his battle with drugs, alcohol, and suicidal thoughts following his divorce.

In all, many of our veterans are homeless partially because of issues with family or their inability to share their struggles with them.

Here at HomeAgain, we work to assist our residents with these issues. We are diligently researching ways to facilitate conversations regarding family ties, and we plan to lead focus groups dedicated to family reunification and to mending those damaged relationships.