Ava here tonight to offer a brief Congressional hearing snapshot.
Senator Scott Brown filled in for Senator Richard Burr as Ranking Member for today's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on homeless veterans. Early on, he noted that there has been an over $400 million increase in Congressional funding for homeless veterans since 2010.
By the way, if you cut off the top of his head (block it), he looks like John McEnroe. I knew he reminded me of someone for the last years (in terms of his look). I was brushing some hair from my eyes and my palm covered my view of him from above the eye brows. McEnroe. It was obvious.
Sandra Strickland was one of the witnesses on the first panel. She's a veteran. And a mother. And when domestic violence forced her to take her kids and leave the house, her life began changing and she ended up being the new face of the homeless. She lost her kids, she had no help from VA. She's in a program called Final Salute currently. Excerpt.
Senator Scott Brown: And how do you find that program in terms of getting you to that path of independence and obtaining your auto body shop and other endeavors? How are you moving along? How are you dealing with your financial assistance? How are things working out with your kids? Where are you in terms of the balance in your life? How's that coming along?
Sandra Strickland: Right now, I am on the path to becoming self-sufficient. I'm still working with the temp agency so I do have consistent employment. I am still fervently seeking full time employment but in the interim I just continue to press on. The program I'm in with Final Salute, it's a unique program because it's -- it's catered to the specific needs of the person. There are four females in the home and we all have unique situations so we're all told to give a plan of what we intend to do with the two years that we have at the program. And so with that, they cater to what our specific needs are, so mine, of course, was to continue my entrepreneurship, to maintain or get the physical custody of my children -- so they're providing the resources as far as obtaining a lawyer for me. As far as the entrepreneur, they're providing resources and conferences that I can attend to do that. I don't have any mental health issues but they do or they have set me up with a mentor that I can talk to as far as support. Cause like said, when you're homeless, it's one thing but when you're dealing with other emotional issues, it's another.
Senator Scott Brown: Looking at your challenges here, your being homeless and dealing with the children issues -- and that's the one issue where you can survive and you can do your thing but then you throw in the other challenges of having children and not wanting to lose them and obviously keep that family unit together and having the possible threats against your life and your safety and security.
Sandra Strickland: Right.
Senator Scott Brown: So, as I said, thank you for sharing that story. It's personal in nature obviously. And I was disturbed when I read that when you called the VA for help, they basically blew you off. And that's what we're hearing a lot -- whether it's dealing with claims, whether it's dealing with these type of assistance issues, that lack of personal touch -- sometimes is all you need. If somebody said, 'Hey, we don't have the ability to take care of you because of your situation, however, we have a group that does similar work to the work that Rev. Rogers does that's close to you in your city or town," and then give you a whole list of contacts and follow up with you maybe in a day or two or three. None of that was provided. You got a list, these are the shelters, see you later, thank you very much. Is that the way it happened?
Sandra Strickland: Correct.
Senator Scott Brown: Well that's unacceptable. And Rev. Rogers I know that you have a big fan on this panel. and was nice enough to allow me to chair this. And I want to thank you all for what you do. But what do you think separates your program from others? I mean why isn't this going viral all over the country.
Reverend Scott Rogers: Well, that's an excellent question. I really think that there's maybe not as much emphasis on the community-based and faith-based partnerships that can be put together. When you begin to really grasp what the volunteers -- both from the faith-based and the community-based organizations do, offering them both professional training as well as a kind of support system, they respond many fold.
So the claim that the homeless rate had dropped to 67,000 was not one that Scott Brown accepted in the hearing. He was very clear that the January data needs to be analyzed and the VA needs to figure out how to start counting these numbers accurately.