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    t3 Threads: Changing the Conversation

    Vicki Sherwin

    Vicki Sherwin
    Vicki is a trainer for the Center for Social Innovation, supporting public health professionals in delivering recovery-oriented, trauma-informed services to people living with substance use disorders and related challenges. She has worked as a Public Health Coordinator/Educator at a correctional facility and as a Medical Case Manager for a supportive housing program. She received a B.A. in Sociology from Suffolk University. Vicki’s father is a Navy Veteran, and her son is currently serving in the Army Reserves.

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    Doing Better for Veterans

    As we celebrate and honor our nation’s Veterans, many businesses will offer discounts and free coffee or meals to those who have served in the military. While these are nice gestures, it isn’t enough.

    The 2016 annual homeless assessment report from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that 39,471 Veterans are homeless on any given night, 9 percent of whom are women. It also estimates that roughly 45 percent of Veterans experiencing homelessness are African-American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4 percent and 3.4 percent respectively of the Veteran population. Other research shows that Veterans spend an average of nearly 6 years homeless, compared to 4 years for non-Veterans.

    Our country is experiencing an extreme shortage of affordable housing and jobs paying livable incomes as well as barriers in access to health care—all of which contribute to homelessness. In addition, a large number of displaced and at-risk Veterans live with lingering effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance use, which can be compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some Veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment. Approximately 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are eligible for disability compensation. However, the average wait for a disability claim to be processed is eight months, and the benefit can be as little as $127 per month.

    Hidden Hurt: When Domestic Violence Isn't Physical

    Many forms of domestic violence have obvious physical manifestations. Emotional abuse is subtle and often goes unseen. The victim may not even recognize that they are being abused. Emotional abuse does not leave black eyes or broken bones, but it seriously damages self-esteem and leaves scars on your soul. It took me almost ten years to realize I was in this kind of abusive relationship, and even then, I was still taking responsibility for my abuser’s actions. It took another five years before I was willing to call it domestic violence.

    My closest friends have often asked, “How could you, a strong independent woman, let that happen?” I don’t have an answer. It happened so gradually that I didn’t recognize it as abuse. To outsiders looking in, we had the perfect life. Slowly, however, I became isolated from my friends. I had little self-esteem and felt worthless. The only person I thought I could depend on was the person who was causing me to feel this way.

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