Helping NJ’s homeless veterans
They served their country proudly, but now many don't have a place to call home.
It is estimated that anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 veterans in New Jersey are homeless, comprising at least half of the entire homeless population of the state.
According to Raymond Zawacki, Deputy Commissioner for Veterans Affairs at the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, there are several private sector, community-based programs to help homeless veterans, along with two state-run facilities: Veterans Haven South in Camden County and Veterans Haven North in Hunterdon County.
"Both offer transitional housing to male and female veterans, and our latest population as of Nov. 5 was 146 residents between both facilities," Zawacki said.
He said sometimes veterans wind up homeless because they come back from combat suffering with psychological issues.
"Many of the residents of these facilities are from prior wartime periods, such as Vietnam, so they're more advanced in age," Zawacki said, "and part of the problem, in some cases, is addiction, whether it's drug addiction or alcohol addiction."
Zawacki said most of these individuals are trying to get back to a more stable way of life, and thanks to several different programs that are offered, many are able to get back on their feet.
"To reach those who need help, we have 16 veteran service officers out in the field," he said. "They are all pretty much keyed in to referring any veterans or inquiries they receive on behalf of veterans to someone who knows where to guide them."
We promote the programs we offer to the nth possible extent. We publish a veterans' guide that's sent to every man and woman returning from active duty, and the National Guard has a structured reintegration program, where they get these deployed troops back together at regular intervals. We're trying to let our veterans know these services are available to them, if they need them."
Zawacki said if anyone is aware of a veteran who is homeless, or close to losing their home, they should contact the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs at 1-888-865-8287.
Data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shows homelessness among veterans has dropped 33 percent since 2010, and was down 10.5 percent last year, thanks to a variety of different state and federal programs. The Obama administration has put a plan in place that aims to find homes for all veterans as early as next year.