Helping create new life paths
Since 1920, DAV has been a large part of “tikkun olam” (Hebrew for the Jewish value of repairing the world) by answering the call to care and advocate for wounded veterans and their families.
Yet when veterans become homeless, they can lose all sense of respect and dignity, as others often do not recognize the rocky paths that led to this situation.
According to VA research on homelessness, the risk factors and causes of veteran homelessness may include mental and behavioral health issues such as post-traumatic stress and substance use disorders, lack of access to affordable housing, and lack of employment and knowledge about how military training and skills are transferrable to the civilian workforce.
Recently, a team of teens from Jewish Teen Foundation San Diego also had a desire to apply tikkun olam to disabled veterans facing homelessness in the U.S.
During the school year, the teens met twice a month to undergo intensive training to become astute philanthropists. At the meetings, they discovered how to evaluate a nonprofit’s social impact as well as how to personally engage donors. Then, they garnered donations for a specific cause. Finally, they decided which organizations should be recipients of these monetary awards.
“[The foundation’s] board designated their 2022 initiative to aid veterans in their battles to overcome homelessness via rehabilitation, employment resources or long-term support,” said Rachael Cunningham, the foundation’s teen coordinator. “Throughout the learning process, we teach teens about the different emphases of nonprofits: Some focus on advocacy, others do direct service, and still others perform outreach.”
According to Cunningham, as the teens researched different organizations working with homeless veterans, DAV kept rising to the top of the list. They discovered that DAV supports the three aspects of nonprofit work—advocacy, direct service and outreach—through benefits advocacy, employment assistance, medical transportation, disaster relief and media outreach.
Perhaps the biggest impression made on the teens was listening to the story of Mike Biggs—a homeless veteran who transitioned to living in a secure home with help from DAV.
Biggs, an Army veteran, told the young people about his struggle with PTSD and its relation to homelessness.
“For my generation, PTSD did not exist as a diagnosis. It wasn’t discussed. As a military person, you just push through,” said Biggs. “I was trying to figure out why I had this deep depression, anxiety, frustration, hypervigilance and anger. Over time, it became an issue in my life. I became homeless, estranged from my family.”
“We were all really touched by Mr. Biggs’ story. I can’t imagine having to overcome all that he did,” said Levi Glazer, a 17-year-old high school senior. “His story of how DAV helped him to transition off of the streets and back home proves that DAV is working directly with homeless veterans to better their future.”
DAV helped Biggs find a new life path that led home.
Something else caught Glazer’s attention as well. “What stood out to me about DAV’s efforts is that people feel so supported by DAV that they want to become members,” he said. “Those members then help other disabled veterans get hooked up with DAV for assistance. It creates a really cool ripple effect.”
Do you want to join DAV in repairing the world by helping disabled veterans?
Every $1 donated delivers $179 in benefits to veterans, a 179% return on investment for the veterans who have sacrificed for our freedom. Give today to assist veterans like Mike Biggs who are facing homelessness find their way home.