By U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Homeless Veterans Initiative Office, Washington, D.C.
ACP members help build safe, stable communities where everyone should have a place to call home. But some people in U.S. communities are not so fortunate. As police officers, law enforcement officers (LEOs) are likely to encounter these individuals during their day-to-day work, putting LEOs at the front line of a nationwide effort to end homelessness. This is why IACP is proud to support the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA’s) initiative to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
For service members reentering civilian life, the transition can be difficult. Veterans may face obstacles including mental health challenges, financial hardship, and a lack of employment opportunities—which can put veterans at risk for homelessness if unaddressed. As first responders and trusted community leaders, LEOs are in a unique position to identify veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless and have the power to make veterans aware of the resources available to them through VA.
VA has established an easy way for veterans, their families, and the community that supports them to get connected with the services that can help them prevent and overcome homelessness. Just a call to the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans (NCCHV) at 877-4AID-VET will connect veterans with a wide range of services including health care, employment, education, and housing assistance. The NCCHV is a confidential resource veterans can use 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Police officers across the United States are joining the effort and making a real difference. The Atlanta, Georgia, Police Department has provided all of its 1,800 officers with VA outreach materials and established the Homeless Outreach and Proactive Enforcement (HOPE) program. Under the HOPE program, officers regularly patrol streets and visit homeless shelters to spread the word about the hotline and the services VA provides to eligible veterans. The officers also ask local businesses to post fliers and distribute wallet cards to veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
But Atlanta is just one city, and if veteran homelessness is to end, all must help. During daily work, take a moment to ask members of the community who lack safe, stable housing if they served in the military. When encountering veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, encourage them to make the call to 877-4AID-VET or chat online at www.va.gov/homeless to learn more or be connected with the support services VA offers. LEOs can also call the hotline on behalf of any veterans they encounter.
Materials that promote the hotline and other VA services for veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless are also available. Visit www.va.gov/homeless/materials_center.asp to order brochures, posters, wallet cards, tear cards, pens, and more to keep in patrol cars. The outreach materials are free, and so is shipping. Wallet and tear cards take up little space in patrol cars and can be distributed easily, and posters and brochures are helpful to have in stations, where citizens may seek information or assistance.
IACP members are the law enforcement leaders of today. It is their responsibility to set an example for fellow police officers. Working together, the law enforcement community can help end veteran homelessness. ♦
Please cite as:
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Homeless Veterans Initiative Office, "IACP Joins the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to End Homelessness among Veterans," The Police Chief 80 (August 2013): 24.