Lisa DH Aquino| July 2020 | Catholic Anchor
July is a time to celebrate our nation. It’s also a time to celebrate and honor the brave men and women who serve our country each day. These heroes are dedicated to something bigger than themselves – the good of our entire nation.
These heroes fight for justice and deserve justice themselves. Many of our veterans here in Alaska and across the nation found themselves facing struggles no one should have to face. These challenges include a lack of affordable housing, employment, and a system that has failed them. Veterans experience homelessness at a higher rate than those who are not veterans. As a nation, and as a social services agency here at CSS, it is our responsibility to advocate for change and provide the support and care needed.
As Americans, we have recognized the wrongs of our ways of not providing enough or quality services to our veterans. It was realized that we were operating in a way that did not allow veterans to receive the benefits they deserve, and change was enacted. Our country has improved services focusing on veterans in homelessness. Since 2011, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has dropped by 43.3% (National Alliance to End Homelessness).
Our country has done significant work to provide better support to our veterans, but we still have a long way to go. Despite progress, on any given night in January 2019, 37,085 veterans experienced homelessness (National Alliance to End Homelessness). We must not only provide better support to our veterans, but also other vulnerable groups of people who have experienced discrimination and shoulder a greater disadvantage. As a nation, we have done great things, but we have also made enormous mistakes and created problems. We can address those mistakes and make changes, and as Catholics, we are called to do just that. We need to shine the light of justice and dignity on all groups that have not received fair treatment or who have been marginalized, like people of color, women, and people in poverty. It’s now time to recognize those mistakes and enact change because all people deserve dignity and respect.
At Catholic Social Services and around the country, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) assists families and individuals who have served at least one day on active duty. Teams of case managers aid veteran clients in obtaining benefits, and provide support with rental and utility assistance, referrals, financial planning services, transportation services, and legal and payee services. Our veterans’ heroism and commitment to their country and serving others is inspiring. It’s our duty as a social services agency and as a nation to be sure veterans are well supported after their service has ended.
Our veterans and COVID essential workers have much in common. Essential workers in the COVID epidemic have supported our community and sacrificed their safety and health for the greater good. Catholic Social Services recently wrote about one of our Refugee Assistance & Immigration Services clients who serves as an essential worker at Alaska Regional. It’s a story of hope and exemplifies the personal sacrifices and bravery exhibited by all essential workers and our veterans. You can read this story on at our blog at https://www.cssalaska.org/blog/
This month, and every month, we express our gratitude for all who work to protect us, veterans, and essential workers. Catholic Social Services will continue to work towards a more just world, by ensuring all groups of people receive equitable support, services, and care. As an agency, we will also advocate for all vulnerable and at-risk groups whose voices are not heard. It is an honor to serve our country’s veterans, and we will continue to serve them, and all people, with dignity and respect, and always with love.