I want to address the importance of Black soldiers who have helped sew the fabric of the flag of the United States of America and their dire need for basic resources like quality affordable housing and support services.
Nearly 1.5 million Black service members have died on active duty up to the present day. Today, there are 2.1 million Black men and women veterans nationwide who have served and protected our country. They want to be treated equally as human beings with a fair opportunity to live the American dream.
Many veterans who do make it back to American soil are plagued with the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). They do not receive adequate care because of the lack of veterans' services and because many Black veterans do not trust doctors due to America's historical medical racism. Untreated PTSD and TBI has resulted in the mass homelessness of veterans across our nation and locally — 33% of veterans experiencing homelessness are Black, compared with 12.3% of the general veteran population.
Homelessness creates an inability to obtain employment and often prevents access to medical and mental health care, which is a guaranteed right for veterans upon honorable discharge. The end result is often suicide.
I am a Black Navy veteran who joined the military in hopes of obtaining a better life for myself and future family. But I experienced a different life [upon] returning home, living with PTSD due to my experiences overseas. I found myself addicted to prescribed medications. I became homeless; I even attempted suicide. I was very lucky to receive help from family and the local community. I am a rare statistic, considering that on average 20 veterans die by suicide every day in this country.
America needs to do better by Black veterans, and housing can be a critical solution.
Recently, I was pleased to learn that there is an approved plan for affordable housing for Black veterans through Community Development Partners called Alberta Alive, designated for Northeast Portland. Alberta Alive will develop 52 units of affordable housing split across multiple Northeast Portland locations, with one development securing 31 units for veterans.
Northeast Portland is a place that is historic for the Black community and the many who have been displaced due to the gentrification of Northeast Portland neighborhoods. These displaced residents include those who have served our country with noble distinction. Had a project such as Alberta Alive existed upon my honorable discharge, it certainly would have provided me a platform to return to a healthy and stable life.
It is important that Alberta Alive be realized so that Black veterans can have the housing they deserve. It would acknowledge their contributions to our nation and our communities at the very least.
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