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VA Homeless Programs


Message from Monica Diaz, Executive Director, VHA Homeless Programs Office

December 2022

Monica Diaz

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. And when he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

If you’ve seen the film It’s a Wonderful Life, you know the power of Clarence’s message. If you have not seen it, I recommend taking a few hours this holiday season to enjoy the timeless story.

Army Air Corps and Air Force Veteran Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, a man consumed by his commitment to helping others. When Bailey becomes too overwhelmed by the pressures he faces, Clarence the angel appears.

With Clarence’s help, Bailey can see the world from a new perspective. He learns that his life and acts of kindness, no matter how small, have impacted—and even saved—more people than he ever realized.

If we had the chance to see our lives from the same vantage point as George Bailey, I have no doubt that we would have a similar experience.

When we help a Veteran exit or avoid homelessness, we do not only help this Veteran; we help the exponential number of individuals whose paths they cross.

This year, we had the chance to meet with numerous Veterans who have benefitted from the services of HPO and our partners. No two Veterans had the same experiences entering or exiting homelessness. But after receiving help from VA, an incredible number of Veterans had the same plan for their future: to help other Veterans.

James Sapp went to the St. Louis VA Medical Center-Jefferson Barracks looking for addiction and housing services. After receiving treatment and permanent housing support, Sapp wasted no time pursuing three degrees. Today, James Sapp, AS, BSW, MSW, LSW, is a social worker helping Veterans see that no matter what they are facing, there is a path forward.

Cynthia Perkins found VA after experiencing painful medical conditions associated with military sexual trauma. The trauma-recovery lessons she learned from her Boston VA team combined with the business help she received from Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services enabled her to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams. Today, Perkins leads Lines on Paper, LLC, producing journals that help others understand, process, and heal from their own trauma.

Ronald Scott felt his country needed him after the September 11th attacks. The recently separated Army Veteran wasted no time re-enlisting, explaining, “I was blessed with the skills and training to be there to help those who needed it.” After a fire destroyed his home, Scott received help from HUD-VASH Section 4201 of the Isakson and Roe Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020. Despite losing so much, Scott never lost his motivation to serve others, saying, “It’s my duty to shout from the rooftops and let people know where help is available. VA made miracles happen,” he said. “This gives me a chance to pay back all that’s been given to me. With great power comes great responsibility.”

When I think back on 2022, I will remember these stories—and the stories of so many Veterans who, even after facing immense challenges, have refused to give up on the oath they took to protect and serve others. These Veterans are inspirations, and they are living proof that the work you do travels further than you will ever know.

Of course, I will also remember this year as a year where we strived toward a major goal—38,000 permanent housing placement for Veterans experiencing homelessness. On the latest Ending Veteran Homelessness podcast, we reflect on the outcomes of this achievement and what our next goals will be after it has been accomplished. As always, looking back at what we’ve achieved only stands to highlight the people who got us there: our staff.

Despite continuing to live through a global pandemic, VA staff and our partners showed up every day, ready to do whatever it took to meet this goal. I am deeply grateful for the hard work of everyone contributing to this achievement—and I know our Veterans are too. This historic milestone proves that there is no limit to what we can achieve when we work together and confirms that a future where no Veteran is homeless in the country where they served will become a reality, thanks to individuals like you. Thank you.

Finally, as we conclude this year, I will not forget those who we did not have the chance to help. Tomorrow is Homeless Persons Memorial Day. Observed on December 21 every year, this day reminds us that despite our progress, the dangers of homelessness remain prevalent. Let us honor the memories and legacies of these individuals by continuing to reach as many Veterans as possible in the new year.

In this season of giving, please know how much you have given to America’s Veterans this year. You have given Veterans the resources they need to exit homelessness, combat hunger, and find careers that bring new meaning to their life. You have given hope, second chances, listening ears, and open minds. Most of all, you have given Veterans the message that they are needed, they are important, and they matter.

I hope you have a peaceful and healthy holiday season. I am looking forward to all we will accomplish together in 2023!