September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and this is a cause that is close to our hearts here at Volunteers of America Southwest. One of the most vulnerable populations when it comes to suicide is our nation’s homeless population. Individuals in our communities who struggle with homelessness are at increased risk due to factors such as exposure to drug abuse and addiction, as well as an increased likelihood of an untreated mental health challenge.

Homeless veterans are at an even greater risk.

General population studies have shown that veterans with a history of homelessness are twice as likely to attempt suicide than civilians. A recent study published in the journal Psychiatric Services suggested that this rate can be up to FIVE times more likely when compared to other veterans who have never been homeless.

By best estimates, San Diego County has over 1,000 veterans living on the street, more than 10% of what has been deemed the nation’s 4th largest homeless population. Finding solutions for these brave service men and women is crucial to saving lives, and you can #BeThe1To help prevent another veteran from trying to take their own life.

How do we prevent this?

In the same study in Psychiatric Services, the study authors argue that the best method of preventing suicide among homeless veterans is funding for homeless programs that help these men and women get back on their feet. We couldn’t agree more.

Whether it is temporary shelter and assistance to find housing and employment, job training and skills support, or rehousing to prevent imminent homelessness, programs are clearly the most important thing we can do to help homeless veterans reclaim their life.

We are immensely proud of the services we offer to our veterans and their families who are struggling with housing problems.

Hawley Veterans’ Services Center in El Cajon, CA is our transitional housing program for homeless veterans with mental health diagnoses. Veterans can reside in the program for approximately 90 days as they wait for their permanent housing opportunities to become available. In collaboration with other VA services and agencies clients can also work towards increasing life skills and income for their successful transition to self-reliance, while in our program. Additionally, housing staff work closely with Veterans to help them secure affordable housing in San Diego.

Our Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) offers job readiness and job placement services to homeless Veterans. Our job placement staff work with veterans to complete pre-employment tasks, such as, resume writing, developing interview skills and securing professional clothing. HVRP staff work with employers in the community to create job opportunities for homeless Veterans. HVRP staff offers ongoing emotional support to the Veterans who procure employment.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) is a housing assistance program that promotes housing stability among very low-income veterans and their families in San Diego county. The program helps veterans and veteran families obtain or maintain permanent housing by offering a large array of supportive services. These services include financial assistance, case management, and assistance in obtaining VA and other benefits.

Here’s where you come in.

We can always use more help. If you have the means and are feeling generous, you can donate by clicking here. While we’d love your generosity, we would also love to get to know you. If you think you’re ready to make a hands-on difference, you can volunteer by clicking here.