The number of veterans facing imminent deportation and homelessness is skyrocketing across the country due to soaring inflation, according to a veterans outreach group.
With federal resources failing to keep up with rising costs and with fewer Americans having enough discretionary funds to donate to charities, American veterans are facing a perfect storm that is driving them much further to the brink, a said Gretchen Smith, founder of the nonprofit Code of Vets. that helps military veterans across the United States
“This historic inflation is wreaking havoc on the veteran community,” she told The Washington Times. “What we’ve seen in recent months is an explosion of eviction notices and homelessness.”
The consumer price index jumped last month at an annual rate of 9.1%, the Labor Department said Wednesday, pushing year-over-year inflation to its highest level in 41 year.
That same month, 61 homeless veterans sought help from the Code of Vets. The group also helped 142 veterans in 27 states who faced imminent deportation in June.
So far in July, the group has received applications from 17 homeless veterans and is scrambling to help 78 who face deportation, 52 of whom have formal deportation hearings scheduled.
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Ms Smith, who is an Air Force veteran, said the numbers were unlike anything she had seen since Code of Vets began in 2019.
“There is no comparison,” Ms Smith said. “These numbers are even higher than the pandemic. Any savings these families might have had are gone at this point due to years of pandemic closures and restrictions. And now we have record inflation.
The problem has been compounded by a shortage of veterans’ case managers who administer the VA’s housing assistance program, which has resulted in a backlog of applications for federally funded housing vouchers.
And those who manage to receive housing assistance from the VA are still at risk of falling short from month to month, as rising rents can exceed the VA’s monthly vouchers.
“They have nothing to live on,” Ms Smith said. “Everything is erased at this point. They are living on less money with 9.1% inflation, rising rents, gas prices being what they are and grocery prices at record highs. They can’t absorb it.
VA spokesman Randal Noller said he was working “diligently” to address staffing shortages impacting the housing voucher program, and that he was “working closely with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to utilize existing flexibilities and explore new flexibilities so veteran housing vouchers can remain competitive and viable.
“We strongly encourage landlords and landlords to help us solve this very real problem by kindly renting to veterans — the same veterans who have selflessly served our nation in times of need,” Mr. Noller said. “We have a moral obligation to ensure that these men and women do not end up on the streets.
Until recently, homelessness was not the primary focus of the Code of Vets. The group – which operates under the credo “Caring for Our Own, One Veteran at a Time” – helps veterans facing daily setbacks and raises funds through donations made on social media to help vets recover on foot.
Ms Smith said the requests were pouring in and becoming increasingly dire.
“Army vet Jerome is married, has 2 adult dependents,” one post read. “Back to work but only part-time. Wife was hit/missed weekly with job/jobs. This family is behind, gone through all the savings. PT wages and inflation don’t help. $1900.
The message is accompanied by a photo of Jerome’s VA benefit ID card.
“Army vet Katrina struggles with a domestic issue trying to work full-time, supporting her 3 minors,” reads a June post. “Behind the rent must increase or will be evicted. Many other things to stabilize and protect her and the children. $1700.
Katrina is pictured below the post in her army combat uniform.
Over the past several months, all of Code of Vets’ resources have been focused on veterans who face an immediate threat of deportation, leaving those in less serious, but still serious, circumstances with a place of less to whom to turn for help.
“The face of homelessness is changing,” said Ms. Smith, who gets emotional as she talks about the plight of her fellow veterans.
She said it was becoming increasingly common for blue-collar Americans, and not just veterans, to face impending homelessness. People who live paycheck to paycheck just can’t keep up, she said.
“It only creates havoc among the thousands and thousands of veteran families we deal with,” Ms. said Smith. “It’s absolutely stunning. The numbers we face are staggering.