What It Takes To End Homelessness Among Vets

8025715386_70911e74dc_zAt NEW we are no stranger to the numbers or the gravity of homelessness in the DC region. We see it every day in the nation’s capital. Especially this time of year — huddled under found layers, and trying for warmth over Metro grates. And yet, yesterday, we couldn’t help having what’s called a “driveway moment” in the radio business. It happened when we tuned into The Kojo Nnamdi show, where the conversation was about how Montgomery County, MD has effectively ended veteran homelessness.

Specifically, we listened to two military vets talk about being homeless. And one interviewed vet, Larry, who didn’t wish to share a last name, related a particularly hard experience: He lasted two days on the street because it was high summer when he was evicted. He spoke of going to McDonald’s to get a cup of water and cool off. But when it’s the middle of the night and still in the 80s, and you’re lying on a concrete slab trying to get rest amid the bugs, it’s very hard to stay remotely healthy — which is how he ended up in the hospital, due to dehydration. He spoke of finally finding shelter in a more stable housing situation, but struggling to see his family a few miles away or find meaningful work because what takes 15 minutes by car might as well be hundreds of miles away if you have no transportation.

What got Larry to that point? He doesn’t say. But he does mention that he’s 61, was gainfully employed, had family, and had never been homeless. He never thought he’d be homeless.

But none of us thinks we’ll be homeless, or cooling off at a McDonald’s, or trying to look inconspicuous on a Metro platform until closing time. And like the women we serve at NEW, we certainly never think we will be in that position with children in tow — where the concern isn’t “I’d like to be closer to my kids” but “I need childcare to work or I’ll lose my kids!”

The conversation was sobering, compelling, and a must-hear. It is online at http://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2016-01-07/how-a-maryland-county-effectively-ended-veteran-homelessness