These first days of July usher in summer and lead to our national holiday. On the 4th we celebrate this remarkable idea of democracy, who we are as a nation, and what we’re capable of as our best selves. There’ll be parades, picnics and fireworks on the Fourth of July. Our national anthem will be heard from bands and broadcast over loudspeakers to everyone in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Here at the National Veterans Foundation, it’s another holiday on the Lifeline for Vets, another occasion when calls coming in spike as memories surface. Sometimes hearing a friendly voice is all that’s needed; sometimes it takes a team of us to walk someone back from the edge.
The pandemic was a kind of war in itself: the loss of life, the complete change in our daily routines, living with fear and learning to adapt in ways we had not thought possible. What it showed was how interconnected we are, and how we can come together to overcome challenges.
The NVF never left the field. We amped up our Outreach, first to find and reach vets on the streets in places like Skid Row, and then in pop-up homeless communities in parks, canyons, dry riverbeds and areas of industrial blight. Probably every city in America has these areas where the homeless collect. The Los Angeles basin is no different. Our most vulnerable people were not only at the greatest risk, they were also the last to be thought of.
The Survivor Boxes we delivered in those settings—masks, gloves, sanitizer, water and non-perishable food—made a difference. Your support made that possible. Since then we’ve expanded our reach by more frequent trips out and the gift of a larger van.
That got me thinking, comparing our response as a nation to the crisis of pandemic to our response to the chronic crisis of homelessness. I wonder what would happen if, instead of chipping away at the problem as it continues to outpace our efforts, we deployed the kind of thinking and the volume of treasury used to combat Covid-19. A big problem requires a bigger solution. We’ve just lived through that process, and yes, it’s an ongoing one.
Along with crisis intervention and directing Veterans and their families to benefits and resources, the NVF focuses on housing for Veterans. Homes for the brave. We went looking for homeless Veterans, men and women. What we found was a larger community with vets embedded in it.
Our sleeves are still rolled up and we’re ready to go. We’ve been doing this work for over 35 years. I’ve been at it for 50. I have seen that change is possible. Together, we can do this.
This Independence Day, celebrate who we are, what we’ve come through by continuing the march forward. If you know a Veteran who needs help, here’s our toll-free Lifeline number: 888.777.4443
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The worst part of war should not be coming home.