BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Western New York has seen a significant decline in the number of veterans living on the streets.
“Many veterans are one pay check, one incident, one accident, one unplanned expense away from having their housing situation become a risk,” said Alex Lauer, one of the co-chairs for Stand Down.
While the struggle exists for the more than 100,000 vets living in the region, the number of those who have actually wound up on the streets is down. According to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report, since 2013, there has been a 43% decrease and now, fewer than 200 veterans from the region are homeless. Lauer says it is an all time low and now they’re working on prevention and looking at ways to make sure that number stays down for vets.
“They are gaught and trained to be brave and not ask for help,” said Jill Murray, a worker in the Western New York Veterans Affairs Behavioral Health Services Department. “They’re supposed to protect us. We see, from that population, there is a reluctance to accept help because they don’t want to admit they’ve been harmed or hurt.”
Murray says veterans who suffer from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, will sometimes turn to substances like drugs and alcohol to mask the anxiety, nightmares or flashbacks they might be having and that makes them ore at risk for becoming homeless if they don’t receive care.
“Not acknowledging or treating those symptoms can build up,” said Murray.
Murray says progress has been made in the last 10 to 20 years where veterans now understand the services available to them and they are reaching out for help but she says, while more than 10,000 local vets receive care annually, she knows there are more out there who could use it.
“We’ve had success,” starts Murray. “There are always more out there we can help.”