Helping veterans battle homelessness

Livia Paula, Features Editor

Every year in November, we have a holiday dedicated to the veterans of this country. We honor the soldiers who fought and risked their lives for the United States, regardless of the fact they were leaving their families and lives behind.

Throughout the years, we dedicate special holidays to those who fight for the United State. Often enough, these brave men realities are forgotten under the various sales and social media posts of the American flag.

Many veterans in the United States face the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) alongside other mental and physical issues from their time serving for the country. However, an issue that many Americans are unaware of is that many veterans suffer with homelessness here in the U.S.

On Nov. 16, a group of St. John’s students sold cookies in Marillac cafeteria and accepted donations of items such as toiletries or money. The proceeds went towards the Veteran Affairs’ (VA) harbor homeless programs.

According to sophomore Angela Gattuso, these students are involved in the V.A. N.Y harbor homeless program, and they are working alongside with professor Dr. Andrea Licari on the issue.

Gattuso references a package from the V.A.’s initiative, and what her fellow St. John’s colleagues are helping, and she said it’s a yearly initiative.

“A basic overview of the packet is V.A.’s strategy to eliminate homelessness among veterans and the process,” she said. “For example, they support psychical and mental health stabilization and treatment provide substance use disorder treatment, and enhance independent living for them. But, as far as what we’re doing to help is donating unused clothing, food, toiletries, money trees and etc.”

She is thankful that Dr. Licari introduced her to the project.

“I got involved with this project thanks to my professor assigning it to us,” she said. “She taught us the principles of marketing and how to obtain a target audience through services. With this information she has given us created the success to get enough donations for the veterans.”

Gattuso said that her role in this project is to spread awareness on social media such as posting the cookie sale banner on different outlets such as Instagram and different St. John’s pages on Facebook.

According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, veterans make about 12 percent of the adult homeless population.

Gattuso said that the V.A. created “six strategic pillars,” those being outreach education, prevention, treatment, housing, income and employment benefits and community partnerships. They also have a “no wrong door” policy to assist on the issues of homelessness, drug addiction and other psychological issues.

“They want to provide every homeless veteran with an individualized, patient–centered and holistic treatment model in the stabilization and recovery process,” she said. Although Gattuso was never directly affected by homelessness, she said the fact a lot of people are unaware of this issue bothers her.

“It is important for our students to donate to our veterans because it strikes the importance of remembering and taking care of our American veterans,” she said.

“Veterans are asked to fight for us and with that they face extreme consequences like losing their homes. With that, we must remember our veterans and take care of them.”

On Nov. 19, they will be hosting another sale taking place on the first floor of the D’Angelo Center.

“When I think of a veteran, I think about all they have done for the citizens of the United States of America and how they sacrificed for our freedom,” Gattuso said.

“Each veteran made a difference for us and we should open our eyes to that.”