HVAF: Community support required to address veteran housing insecurity, mental health
Veterans across Indiana face challenges with mental health, food and housing insecurity. One organization offers resources and solutions to help address these issues.
Emmy Hildebrand is the CEO of Helping Veterans and Families of Indiana, an organization serving veterans throughout central Indiana. She said veterans are much more likely to experience homelessness than non-veterans.
Hildebrand said HVAF has a street outreach program, where a veteran who experienced housing insecurity goes out to speak with veterans currently experiencing homelessness.
“He goes out to various shelters, homeless camps and other places where those individuals experiencing homelessness may be – just to start to make a relationship, to build trust, share the services that we provide, and invite veterans to come in and receive those services,” she said.
Additionally, Hildebrand said the organization offers permanent supportive housing.
“We also provide 103 transitional housing beds each night. So it's temporary housing: veterans can stay usually for six to nine months,” Hildebrand said. “They work with a case manager to address all their barriers to self-sufficiency, with the goal of moving into permanent housing once they leave here. We also have a really large rental assistance program.”
She said her organization also offers a food pantry to combat food insecurity and high inflation prices. Hilderbrand said the organization also offers a therapist, as many veterans experience mental health challenges.
“What we realized is 80 percent of the veterans we serve report a mental health diagnosis and or a substance use problem,” she said. “So we know this is a huge issue for veterans and especially the veterans that we're serving.”
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Hilderbrand said combating these challenges requires community help from all areas.
“What we've seen in communities around the country that have ended veteran homelessness is it takes all of us to do that,” she said. “We believe here at HVAF that no hero should be homeless on our streets.”
Hildebrand said changes in funding for these types of programs also complicate these issues.
“With the end of the public health emergency in May, a lot of that funding has gone away,” she said. “So, 2020 and 2021 were turbulent, but I would say 2023 is turbulent in its own right. We’re trying to figure out how to continue to provide high-quality services, still in an era of COVID.”
Hildebrand said the organization is looking to expand its sources of funding to “better support its most vulnerable veterans.” Additionally, she said Hoosiers can help support veterans and HVAF through donations and volunteering their time.
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