Even heroes need help sometimes. When Philadelphia’s Megan Bergbauer finished her service in the Marine Corps, she discovered that her skills as a field radio operator didn’t translate to the civilian job market. With no way to afford a home, the young mother was forced to sleep in her car or stay in shelters until the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in West Philadelphia came to the rescue, part of its “housing first” approach to helping homeless vets.
Researchers at the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, a government think tank in Philadelphia, have been studying how to fight homelessness among veterans, and here’s what they’ve found: providing vets with a place to live before connecting them with caseworkers, psychological counselors and employment advisers yields the best results. Some vets need assistance for the long haul, while others are able to bounce back on their feet after only a few months of rent assistance. But housing is key because it provides stability while vets get back on their feet. The VA will help 80,000 veterans nationwide with “rapid rehousing” this year, and 60,000 more will receive rental subsidies.
For Bergbauer, getting a VA rental subsidy made all the difference. She now lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her daughter and newborn son, and plans to resume studying forensic science at Drexel University in the future. “I definitely needed the help,” she told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I would have been in deeper trouble.”