BECKLEY, WV (WVNS)– As of April 2023, there are more than 67,000 homeless veterans in the U.S.
Veterans are also two times as likely to become homeless than those who didn’t serve in the military. One army veteran in Princeton, Richard Pack, talked about his own experience with homelessness, and what helped him get back on his feet.
Richard Pack served in the army from 1979 to 1983. It wasn’t until years after he returned home that he became displaced.
“After a rather messy divorce and some other things that happened, I ended up having a heart attack and ended up in the VA hospital and was between places to stay and kind of staying here and there at that point,” said Pack.
Like many veterans, Pack said the transition from active duty to civilian life was extremely difficult.
“Well, it was totally different. The things that you experience in the military, number one, you don’t have to worry about a place. I mean, everything is taken care of for you,” said Pack.
Tracie Hamb, a homeless program manager for Veterans Affairs, added it is also common for veterans to return home with mental health issues, substance use disorder or economic hardship.
“They don’t have the family support anymore when they get back, and then that’s compounded with PTSD symptoms or different kinds of trauma they’ve experienced. The transition back can be difficult,” said Hamb.
Another reason Pack believes veterans face homelessness is because they are either unaware of resources available- or they refuse to accept them.
“Some people don’t want help. Some people have to get to a point in their life where they have to decide for themselves that they want help and will accept it- some don’t get there… and one of the things the military teaches you is not to be weak.”Richard Pack, Army Veteran
Pack said finding the VA truly helped him through his struggles.
“Once I decided to go to the VA and seek some help from there, the people that I met from our homeless team and our peer-support specialists are some of the best people you’d ever want to meet and some of the best people you’d ever want to work with in your entire life,” said Pack. “They are just top notch. They care about what they’re doing, they care about the vet, and for a lot of them, it’s not just a job.”
Pack said overall, he wants other veterans to find the same help he did.
“If you’re out there, and you do need help, whether it’s mental health issues, whether it’s homelessness, whatever the case may be- there’s people other there that will help you. There’s people at the VA that will help you.”
To find more information on Veterans Affairs and the resources that can help, click here.