While 2015 Point-in-Time Count numbers for the nation showed an overall decrease in veteran homelessness, the statistic for homeless veterans in Spokane increased between 2014 and 2015 from 85 to 101.
In efforts to care for homeless veterans coming to Union Gospel Mission, Social Services Manager Dean Whisler connects them with resources both in-house and out in the community. He explains that at UGM, homeless veterans’ basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing are provided. UGM also offers help to those dealing with Post-traumatic stress disorder and/or addiction issues through our recovery programs. For those who are not struggling with addiction but need help finding a job, the Mission offers an employment training program.
Doug Palmer and Branden Bohannon are each using the resources offered at the Mission. Doug is a Navy veteran who went through the Employment Ready Program and currently holds a year-long training position at UGM Motors. Branden is currently going through UGM LIFE Recovery.
Back in July, both Doug and Branden shared about their time in the armed services and their views of freedom.
“I was adopted from El Salvador which was in war for freedom from the government at the time. When they announced that El Salvador was free, that they had won the war, that’s when I really felt free,” says Doug.
Doug wanted others to feel the same. “I had a second opportunity to really understand what freedom was. I went and served in the military to make sure that others could feel it. I’m proud that I’m in the land of the free and now, I feel like I have done my part in making this country free.”
After his service overseas in the Marines, Branden faced a number of challenges returning to the U.S. But his view of freedom has gradually become clearer.
He described it like this: “Recently, several of us at UGM went down to the bridge, and we all jumped off into the river. The moment between jumping and reaching the water, that moment of clarity, I would chock that up to what freedom feels like.”
Nonetheless, Branden’s struggled with freedom. “When I got back, I was pretty cynical about freedom. You go over there out of patriotism, out of wanting to protect those closest to you. You come back and see things like people protesting military funerals…and well, I fought for your freedom to do that, but [at the same time] that’s not the freedom I fought for. And with the cost of lives, I was really debating for a long time, was that really worth it?
“It took me a long time to realize, it was.”
Now, Branden is digging deeper into what spiritual and emotional freedom look like in LIFE (or Living in Freedom Every day) Recovery.
As veterans who have come face-to-face with death and tragedy, both Doug and Branden agree, freedom is valuable, it’s definitely not free. Branden says, “The sacrifice that’s required for freedom is very high. A lot of people don’t realize how big the sacrifice is.”
It’s because of the great sacrifice service members have made that Dean Whisler believes, “[Veterans] should be able to come back and integrate into a civilian life by being given the resources they need to get back on their feet.”
Please take time on Veterans Day and throughout the year to remember the military veterans and current service members who fight to protect our freedom.
Want to learn about some ways you can care for the homeless? Download this e-book with ideas on how you can help.