Veterans, Homelessness and an Opportunity to Change the World
by Adam Lang
For Veterans’ Day, a friend of mine invited me to a community awareness event to examine issues involving veterans and homelessness. The catalyst for the night was the airing of the show HGTV Change the World: American Heroes Project. The show told the heart wrenching stories of two veterans, in St. Louis and Philadelphia, and the issues they have gone through since leaving the military. In the backdrop of their stories, HGTV and many local volunteers fixed up their homes to help increase their quality of life and show they have not been forgotten for their service to us and our country.
Prior to the airing of the show that evening, Jon Orens, of Orens Brothers Real Estate, opened up his home so that hostess Elisa Basnight could bring together Philadelphia residents, veterans support groups and elected officials to discuss some of the problems facing veterans and the solutions available for them as well as ways for others to help the cause.
Elisa Basnight, a West Point graduate and U.S. Army Veteran, was part of the HGTV Change the World program for Philadelphia. She spoke about the need for us as a community to help veterans transition back into a world that is much different from the one they left, especially from a combat environment.
The first speaker she had was Joe Eastman. He spoke about his work with fellow veteran Chris Hill and an organization named Gathering of Eagles. His story was about how the Broad Street Ministry came to him about needing help with an influx of homeless, particularly veterans. He demonstrated that sometimes the easiest way to help is just by asking, “what do you need?”
The next speaker was Ken Wong from the Dragonboat races. He told the group about how proceeds from the event go to help veteran assistance groups such as Wounded Warrior or scholarships for children of Vietnam veterans.
Next to speak was Councilman Bill Green. Councilman Green passed on to the group information about funds that will be made available by Supreme Court Justice McCaffery to support a Veterans Court to help with cases involving veterans and some of their unique circumstances.
Finally Cathy Santos, an advocate for female veterans at www.phillyvet.blogspot.com, helped to raise awareness for a group of veterans that face issues different and the same with their male counterparts.
For many of us, Veterans’ Day comes and goes with the feeling we support the troops by merely saying we do or by flying a flag outside our home. The evening that was put together by Elisa underlined a very important reality; even though our vocal support is a good thing, some of our veterans do need more.
As I see it, if they are willing to risk their lives for our freedom, the least we can do is ask, “what do you need?”
Elisa Basnight and Joe Eastman
Elisa Basnight and Ken Wong
Councilman Bill Green