We are just days away from Veterans Day. Get your BS meter and megaphone ready. You are about to hear many communities declare “functional zero” in ending homelessness for veterans in their community. I call BS loud. I hope and trust you have the strength and courage to do so as well.
Reaching functional zero for veterans on Veterans Day is for political gain and optics. It has NOTHING to do with the work and the reality. If functional zero had really been reached, would it not make more sense to announce when it actually happened?
As I have previously written, the federal benchmarks used to measure these efforts are deeply flawed. You have not ended homelessness amongst veterans if you ask them if they want housing, but they say no. That is victim blaming and cowardice. You have not ended homelessness amongst veterans if your Grant and Per Diem programs and shelters are still filled with veterans THAT ARE TECHNICALLY HOMELESS, but you are insisting are in therapeutic programs (unless they really are in programs like this, in which case call it what it is). Let us never confuse important programs like substance use recovery programs as homelessness and housing programs. They are different things.
They are some that will suggest their claim of functional zero has been carefully reviewed and vetted by third parties and/or government agencies. I have no doubt they have been reviewed and vetted. BUT they have been reviewed and vetted against flawed measurements and standards if current federal benchmarks are followed.
Do you have the ability to stand up and speak truth to power? Will you turn on your BS meter in your community and use your megaphone to call out the potential errors and even hypocrisy of the claims of functional zero for veterans? I would argue that if you do not, you are complicit in the shenanigans. I would argue that you are abetting injustice if you knowingly applaud a lie. It is a privilege to serve families and individuals experiencing homelessness. They are the reason we exist…not some elected official that wants to get political uplift by suggesting their community has ended veterans homelessness.
And lest we forget that people served in the Armed Forces to protect us all. The life of a veteran experiencing homelessness is not worth more than the life of a non-veteran experiencing homelessness. There are more resources available to end veterans homelessness and there are very specific timelines to achieve the goals. But achieving those goals should come through hard work and persistence, not because of the convenience of Veterans Day. Declaring Zero should come from actually transforming the entire homeless service delivery system to make that possible and sustainable. Reaching Zero is not a PR exercise. If it is, that has more to do with those seeking public attention than the people actually served through your efforts.
Only if we raise our voices as a chorus of one to call BULL SHIT on the game that is being played with veterans as the pawns for public gain on veterans day are we truly working from a place of justice. This is really difficult work. You are probably working non-stop in the name of justice. Do not let someone twist your work for their political gain.