Aiosa: To honor Oregon veterans, let's ensure all of them are housed
A man, recently separated from his wife and living in his car.
A former carnival worker who had almost everything he owned â€“ laptop, wallet, cell phone, birth certificate â€“ stolen from him.
A cancer patient who suffered three heart attacks between the ages of 50 and 55.
What do all three of these very real people have in common? They're all veterans â€“ and until recently, they've all experienced houselessness in Portland.
Houselessness has become one of the biggest challenges facing our region, especially during the time of Covid. It is an issue that affects many individuals, a significant number of whom are veterans.
According to the most recent Point-in-Time report from the City of Portland and Multnomah County, in 2019 there were about 4,000 houseless people in Multnomah County. Of those, nearly 475 â€“ about 12% â€“were veterans.
Finding yourself houseless is extremely stressful for everyone, but veterans are especially vulnerable, due to a range of factors like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, injuries from service and their discharge status.
But, as the three individuals described above can attest, there is hope.
Organizations like Do Good Multnomah work hard to provide permanent supportive housing and low-barrier emergency shelters for houseless veterans in Multnomah County. We currently have two low-barrier shelters, three motel shelters, two transitional housing villages and two permanent housing projects for veterans, with a third under construction.
And yet, it takes more than housing to help houseless veterans. It also takes supportive services like case management, mental health support and peer support. It takes opportunities for education, training and employment. And it takes partnering with volunteers and other organizations and businesses, each of whom can offer their own expertise to help achieve a greater goal.
As part of its "Lift Zones" initiative, Comcast has helped Do Good Multnomah upgrade two of our facilities to offer free, fast Wi-Fi connectivity. Having access to free, secure and reliable internet is key for those we serve, who can use it to look for jobs, pursue educational opportunities and access important support services. They can also stay connected with family and friends. What's more, access to the internet and other services can help veterans connect with resources that can help keep them from ending up on the streets in the first place.
As we pay tribute to all of our veterans this Veterans Day, take a minute to think about those who have served but who now find themselves in challenging situations. How can we, as the greater Portland community, ensure that veterans are supported and given opportunities for housing with dignity?
Every veteran deserves housing and support. Working together, we can make sure they get it.
Chris Aiosa is the founder and Executive Director for Do Good Multnomah. Find out more about the group's efforts and how you can help at www.dogoodmultnomah.org.
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