With Soldiers Returning from Afghanistan, HELP USA Urges Preparations to Ensure a Strong Safety Net

Jun 24, 2011, 17:19 ET from HELP USA

Veteran in PSA: "I'm getting help because I fought for my country. It feels good to have someone fight for me."

NEW YORK, June 24, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- HELP USA, one of the largest nonprofit housing organizations for the homeless in the country, is taking steps to ensure an adequate safety net for soldiers returning from Afghanistan.  The organization has specialized transitional and permanent supportive housing residences and employment services for veterans in NYC, Newark, Philadelphia and Las Vegas with projects in development in Washington DC and Maryland.

The organization today released a PSA film message featuring U.S. Ranger and Bronx native Robert LeBron, an Iraq war veteran who was forced to seek shelter in HELP USA's homeless shelter on Morris Avenue with his 14-year-old son..

"I'm getting help because I fought for my country," LeBron says in the PSA. "It feels good to have someone fight for me."

The PSA can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=93hvaANWbdQ.

HELP USA, which was founded by now-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 1986 as national model of housing and services for the homeless, is pledging to help with the President's decision to bring 33,000 American service men and women home from Afghanistan, by "continuing to forge partnerships that give homeless veterans a lifeline," Maria Cuomo Cole, HELP USA Chairman said today.

"Many of these American heroes will need support just as they served us for years," Cole said. "The number of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan missions who have returned home to joblessness and homelessness is distressing, and we know some of these American fighters will face similar challenges."

The soldiers are not all coming home now -- but the time to ensure we have the right safety net waiting for them is now.  Currently, one-fifth of the homeless population is composed of veterans of war, with approximately 107,000 homeless veterans sleeping on the street each night.

There is an increasing number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are women and are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  Many are caring for young children, and many have experienced sexual abuse and trauma during and/or prior to military service. There are roughly 23.8 million living veterans and more than 4.3 million of those veterans have a family income of less than $20,000. Some 45% of homeless veterans report needing help finding a job and 37% need assistance finding housing.  Approximately 44,000 to 66,000 U.S. war veterans are currently experiencing chronic homelessness.

HELP USA is the leading national developer of housing and provider of jobs and services for homeless and at risk populations in the country, including families, war veterans and victims of domestic violence. HELP has served more than 260,000 people since it as founded in 1986 and today serves more than 12,000 each year at 30 residences across the country. To date, HELP has developed more than 2,500 units of housing including transitional and permanent supportive service programs.

Contact: Peter Hamm, 301-448-8589