Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Phoneless Veterans

When I talk about Community Voice Mail, I sometimes find myself reverting to the simplistic view of what we do and who we serve: "We provide free voice mail boxes to homeless people." The reality is a lot more complex, and as it's Veterans Day, I wanted to write about the thousands of veterans who are using Community Voice Mail to improve their lives.

We ask for a lot of information from our clients, and below is some of the data about the more than 4,000 veterans who have used our service in the past few years. These statistics in no way captures the breadth of the veterans population we serve, but some of the data is astounding:
  • 90% are male, and about 10% are female. We've provided voice mail to at least 7 transgender vets.
  • 61% are between the ages of 45-69, with 31% between 26-44. Only 2% are younger than 25, and as soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan, we hope these numbers stay low.
  • 27% have a disabling condition, presumably as a direct result of their military service.
  • 71% tell us they have no monthly income at all, while 26% make less than $1,000 a month.
  • Half are Black/African-American, 45% identify as White, and the rest are American Indian/Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander or Asian.
  • 10% report having children as dependents, with at least 731 total kids dependent on our clients. Community Voice Mail is often a resource for entire families.
  • 47% of those who identify as "homeless" live in emergency shelters , while 34% live in transitional housing and 15% live on the street.
  • 17% have provided us with their email addresses, which we use to send messages about jobs, housing, events, and other local resources. It's likely that a higher percentage of these veterans use email; based on other client surveys, we estimate that 59% of our total clients have email addresses.
  • When our clients are provided with a voice mail box, we ask them what their goals are for using the service. 87% of our veteran clients have goals related to employment, 73% list housing, and 58% list health care or social services. For those vets who reported an outcome to us, approximately 65% said they had achieved their goals, and 95% told us that having a Community Voice Mail box was either "very helpful" or "somewhat helpful" in this pursuit.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that 154,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, with perhaps twice as many experiencing homelessness over the course of the year. The number of homeless Vietnam era veterans is actually greater than the number of service persons who died during that war. It is estimated that veterans account for 23% of all homeless people in America.

Most veterans, of course, are not homeless or in danger of becoming so. Especially on this day, however, it's important to remember that nearly 1/3 of the homeless people you see on the streets where you live have worn a uniform and served this country.

If you'd like to hear the story of a particularly inspiring veteran who uses Community Voice Mail as a tool to rebuild his life, I suggest you listen to this.

We're proud to be able to help...

1 comment:

patent the Man said...

i didnt know that many homeless people had served at war.thank you.