Advancing National Service

Can a New Approach to Treating Vets Keep Them Off the Streets for Good?

February 20, 2014
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Can a New Approach to Treating Vets Keep Them Off the Streets for Good?
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This V.A. center in San Diego will focus on vets only from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

This week the Department of Veterans Affairs opened a new residential treatment center in San Diego, designed to help veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan who are in danger of slipping into homelessness. The Aspire Center has rooms for 34 men and 6 women, and is unique in its focus on only veterans from these two wars. Directors of the Aspire Center hope that grouping together veterans of similar ages who’ve had similar experiences will produce better results.

The Aspire Center’s 28 staff members will offer vets therapy for PTSD, treatment for substance abuse, and occupational counseling. These types of services proved to be life-saving for Kris Warren, an Iraq Marine veteran who sought help from the VA in Los Angeles and after counseling was able to reunite with his family. Warren will be on staff as a social services assistant at The Aspire Center. “I know what it’s like to walk up those stairs, prideful, and ask for help,” he told Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times.

The VA plans to open four more such residential facilities over the next two years in Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia, and West Palm Beach, Fla. They will serve veterans of all ages, but if studies prove an advantage of grouping veterans with similar experiences together, the VA may expand the San Diego approach in the future. An estimated 286 veterans in San Diego are homeless or at risk for becoming homeless, and VA officials will be watching that number and the veterans who stay at The Aspire Center closely to determine if this approach can make a difference. So will Kris Warren. “Where they go, I’ll go,” he told Perry.

MORE: We Support Our Vets. But How About the Afghans Who Helped Them?

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