Today’s News, Tomorrow’s History: Ending Veteran Homelessness

Posted by Monica Brady-Myerov on November 12, 2018

Today’s News, Tomorrow’s History is an ongoing series with Listenwise. This series connects Facing History’s themes with today’s current events using public radio to guide and facilitate discussions around the social issues of our time. This is part of a special California series with Listenwise where we make connections to issues as they are particularly relevant for Californians.

Current estimates of homelessness in the state of California are in excess of 130,000, 25% of the nation’s homeless population. Approximately 55,000 of those are in LA County alone. In this story, hear how one town has focused specifically on veteran homeless and moved every one of them into housing.

America’s veterans have served in wars and conflicts in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq in addition to other places. In the United States about 40,000 veterans are homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition to these veterans, over a million veterans are at risk of homelessness due to lack of affordable housing, support networks, and poverty. Often, veterans suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, or post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their service to their country. They also have difficulty finding employment once their service is over, since military training is not always transferable to civilian jobs.

Homeless_vets_get_a_hand_up_120928-F-AL508-026In California, there are more than 11,000 homeless veterans and the number is rising. But in the city of Riverside California, every single veteran has successfully been moved to housing. Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey, a veteran himself, worked to make sure none of the veterans living in this city were homeless. One of the challenges was convincing apartment owners to rent to homeless vets, even though rents were subsidized by the city. Once veterans found a place to live, other services were provided, including substance abuse services, mental health treatment, and job training.

After the success of this program, Mayor Bailey is turning his attention toward housing all of the chronically homeless in the city. Although there isn’t as much federal funding as there is for veterans, there is optimism. Listen to Mayor Bailey and his goals for the future. This story is from The California Dream Project, a statewide collaboration including Capital Public Radio, KPCC, KQED and KPBS, where this story originated.


Join the conversation with colleagues and classmates, or share your thoughts below:

  • What do you learn about the identity of those who are struggling with homelessness?
  • What are the challenges involved in housing veterans?
  • What steps needed to happen to make this program successful?
  • What are the goals of Mayor Bailey? What would your goals be if you were the Mayor of a city in the United States?
  • Are there ideas from this story which could help others experiencing homelessness?


Dive deeper with Facing History:


Explore more stories about housing and homelessness from Listenwise.


Listenwise helps teachers use public radio stories in their classrooms. To find more public radio stories and lessons for your middle and high school ELA, social studies, and science classrooms you can sign up for a free Listenwise account, join us for a webinar on pairing Listenwise and Facing History resources November 28th, or view our past webinar on Current Events with a SEL lens.


Topics: current events, Listenwise

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