Sometimes in reporting a story, reporters learn about an unmet community need. One such need came to light recently as I looked into the phenomenon of homeless veterans for the Catholic Courier’s November issue.
Staff from the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Center told me that homeless veterans have unique circumstances and needs stemming from their military service. While many of those needs are being met through various programs, homeless veterans who want to remain with their children have few options in our community.
There are some housing options for homeless female veterans: Rochester has permanent supportive housing and Avon has a transitional home, Zion House. However, neither location can currently take families, and the possibility of being separated from their children sometimes deters women from getting help they need, such as entering an addiction-recovery program.
“Have you called RAIHN?” I asked.
“They are our first call,” the VA staff said.
RAIHN is the Rochester Area Interfaith Housing Network, and it provides housing to families with children younger than 18 years old. It partners with more than 40 area congregations to house and/or support families for short-term stays. Several of our Catholic churches have hosted RAIHN families or supported the organization.
Yet RAIHN too has often reported that it must turn away hundreds of families each year because demand outstrips the available beds.
The families turned away might include homeless female veterans with young children. I can’t imagine a more compelling reason for churches to open their doors and hearts to support the homeless than to help these families.
Maybe it’s time for us to think creatively about how we can give back to those who have served our country.