At any given time, and on any given day, it’s not unusual to see people camped out on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign requesting money, or walking around a busy intersection looking for a handout.
According to the signs, some are homeless, while others just need a few coins for something to eat.
They are young and old, black and white, and include even a growing number of veterans in these ranks of the unfortunate.
In my position as Sheriff of the City and County of Philadelphia, it disturbs me to see any one forced to beg and/or sleep on the streets, and especially disturbing when they are veterans who have already sacrificed so much in service to their country.
Statistics say the number of homeless veterans will continue to rise as they return home from places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and any theater of engagement where their lives are under constant threat.
It is troubling on many levels to have served your country honorably as a member of the Armed Forces, only to return to challenges and hurdles that may have arisen as a result of that same service, especially if they were in combat situations.
Among the organizations doing outreach on the street level is the Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF) Veterans Program that targets veterans and their families who are either homeless, or are at risk of losing their homes.
The program offers:
Housing needs assessments and goal setting
Benefits screening and enrollment
Temporary financial assistance
You must have served 24 continuous months, or the full period for which you were called to active duty
Be a member of a family in which the head of the household, or spouse of the head of the household is a Veteran
Cannot have been dishonorably discharged
Workers in the UESF Veterans Program literally drive around seeking out homeless veterans on the street, and have done intake interviews with homeless individuals as they rest on cardboard mats on the sidewalk.
The organizations motto is a simple one: “Keeping Vulnerable Families in Their Homes”.
So if you know a veteran, the spouse of a veteran, or someone living in the household of a veteran who is homeless or close to losing their home, please pass along the following information.
UESF Veterans Program
1617 JFK Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19103