Our MetroWest Driver, Anthony Summa, reflects on Veterans Day.
Working as a food rescue driver for Lovin’ Spoonfuls, I have been able to collaborate with numerous organizations benefiting a wide spectrum of individuals and causes, a major one being veterans assistance. Polling of the agencies we support in the Greater Boston area shows that 65 percent of them currently serve veterans, which gives me great pride, especially with Veterans Day approaching. The statistics surrounding the issue are staggering, with roughly 11 percent of the country’s homeless population being veterans, the majority of which are suffering from mental health issues and/or substance abuse issues. On top of these concerns, many veterans return stateside having to cope with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and often with little family support and skills that don’t often transfer to civilian life. All of these factors create a situation where those who risked their lives for our country can end up without a home, not knowing where their next meal will come from.
On the MetroWest route we are able to donate food to Safe Haven, a housing program run by the Bedford VA which helps to “ensure that veterans who have fallen on hard times will not fall through the cracks of VA housing programs”. Safe Haven has 10 rooms and houses veterans who are chronically homeless and who experience issues with mental health or substance abuse. In most VA housing programs, if a resident returns to substance abuse they are discharged and often have nowhere else to go. At Safe Haven, the requirements are a little more lenient, but drug possession/use is restricted from the premises and residents must meet with a case manager on a weekly basis to discuss future housing goals. The program serves as a safe and healthy environment where these veterans can start making better life and health decisions and get themselves back on the right foot, thus improving their quality of life.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to help these guys who may be down on their luck but are genuinely great people. That being said, there are a number of other ways you and I can give back to this over-represented group among the homeless population. The Boston VA has volunteer opportunities in Brockton, West Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain ranging from helping at events or bingo nights, to volunteering to drive vans to ensure veterans get to their medical appointments. The New England Center and Home for Veterans is located in Boston and works to give “veterans who are facing or at-risk of homelessness with the tools for economic self-sufficiency and to provide them a path to achieve successful and dignified independent living.” They run a gift-a-vet program in which you can donate gift cards which provide veterans with much-needed provisions for the holiday season and beyond.
Building Homes for Heroes is a non-profit which builds or modifies homes which are gifted, mortgage-free, to men and women who were injured during their service. The organization also has programs including financial planning services, family funding and emergency support, intended to help these injured veterans plan for their future. You can assist Building Homes for Heroes by volunteering your time or donating materials or equipment, or hosting a fundraising event.
However you choose to help out, make sure to thank each and every veteran you see this year, they are the ones who risked their lives to protect the freedoms we take for granted every single day.