By Alex Cordero
So far this year, American Legion Post 13 has received a high number of calls from local veterans seeking immediate assistance for basic essentials like groceries and funds for gas or safe housing. Legion members answered by creating a new resource: the Veterans Assistance Program (VAP).
“While Pasadena Post 13 cannot provide cash assistance, the membership wanted to help these veterans in need, especially given the times we are living in. The Veterans Assistance Program aims to help by providing store-specific gift cards for groceries, general merchandise, and or fuel to qualified veterans. It is a very ambitious program whose success is partially dependent upon community support. So, while veterans can now call and request assistance via the program, we are still reaching out to the community for gift card donations.” said U.S. Army Veteran Ariel Bailey.
Local residents who would like to donate store-specific gift cards to all grocery, gas and general merchandise stores can do so via mail, preferably, to Legion Post 13 131 N. Marengo Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101. The option to personally make a donation is also available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gift cards for purchasing groceries, household items and diapers are in higher demand.
As the pandemic continues to threaten our day-to-day lives, many veterans are losing their employment and are in need of safe housing.
According to the Department of U.S. Labor, in 2019, the veteran unemployment rate was 3.1 percent, the lowest rate in 19 years.
However, this year that percentage has more than doubled as of September.
Unemployment among veterans is likely a factor in the rising number of veterans experiencing homelessness amid the continuous threat of the pandemic.
During the 2020 Pasadena Homeless Count, veterans accounted for approximately 7 percent of the population in need of housing. And although, per the report, the number of veterans in need of housing has remained relatively low in the Crown City for the last four years, veterans are more likely than other individuals to live in unsheltered locations, experience chronic homelessness, and often repeatedly need help finding housing multiple times compared to the general homeless population.
During the pandemic, interim shelter facilities have faced the challenge of having to cut their capacity by as much as 50 percent in order to adhere to the CDC prevention guidelines.
Homelessness has remained an important issue in California during the pandemic and has put pressure on state government to meet the rising demand for more safe shelters, affordable housing and permanent housing.
A news article published over the summer by ABC 7 reported that in Los Angeles, 4,000 military veterans were in need of housing and many have built a tent city along the westside of the Veterans Affairs building as a form of protest.
Many veterans remain skeptical of having local governments assist with not only their immediate economic needs but also with basic needs like healthcare and housing.
Per the current commander at Post 13, Agustin Grube, 70 percent of calls regarding immediate assistance are inquiries for food, a need brought forth by homelessness or current economic situations.
Veterans are also calling the Post for assistance with paying bills and funds to travel to other locations via bus or train.
The post expects to have enough gift cards to begin immediately helping local veterans that call Post 13 at (626) 792-2158 and ask for assistance through their new Veterans Assistance Program. With help from the community they can continue to help more local veterans as demands for assistance become more common as the pandemic stretches on before us.