All military veterans deserve praise, honor and hard-earned benefits provided by their nation. Some day in the distant future, the levels of what veterans receive might match what they’ve actually earned, but for now appreciative Americans must diligently define and serve as many of the veterans’ needs as possible.
Homeless military veterans confront especially formidable challenges, and that’s why it has been encouraging this week to observe two advances in their favor — one on the local level and one nationally.
Here in Vancouver, the Veterans Affairs office announced that a site has been chosen to build housing for homeless veterans. It’s a 1.35-acre parking lot along Fourth Plain Boulevard that serves the Veterans Affairs campus and Clark County’s Center for Public Health. The parking spaces will be replaced with another lot nearby.
The local VA Office of Asset Enterprise Management will develop a plan for the project, select a developer and ground will be broken in the next year or two. The same office will determine which types of homeless veterans will be served. Housing could be permanent or transitional. It could be supportive, in which veterans receive rehabilitation treatment. Another option could serve homeless veterans with families.
This site selection is another step in a success story that began in June when the VA’s Building Utilization Review and Repurposing initiative announced 34 sites nationwide. Vancouver was awarded one of only two sites in the three-state Northwest region; the other is in Spokane. VA officials believe there are almost 2,000 homeless veterans in Washington state.
At the national level this week, two senators — Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill. — sent a stern letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki demanding improved treatment of homeless female veterans. Their letter was precipitated by a case in Chicago where several homeless female veterans were incorrectly placed with a provider that was approved only to house male veterans. Murray and Durbin instructed Shinseki to “certify that there are no ongoing inappropriate placements of homeless female veterans … (and) ensure that homeless female veterans are not housed in inappropriate housing situations in the future.”
These two recent developments prove that Americans are serious about providing military veterans with sufficient benefits and treatment. Our heroes deserve no less action from the nation they have served.