(118) No Doghouse to Call Home: The Veteran and Homelessness

 Miss Molly profile

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

Eleven percent of all homeless adults are Veterans

No Veteran should be without a place to call home (VA website on homelessness)

The DOJ on Sleeping in Public Places 

On August 6, 2015, the DOJ (Department of Justice) Civil Rights Division filed a Statement of Interest to seek support for the position that sleeping in a public place when there are no alternative places to sleep is nothing short of criminalizing homelessness. Sleep is a right and need of every human being and should not be punished by prohibiting that action in public. To punish an individual for sleeping in public, the DOJ argues, is cruel and unusual punishment—a violation of the Eighth Constitutional Amendment.

Bare Bones Facts on Homelessness 

The 2014 Annual Housing Assessment Report (AHAR) prepared by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determined that there are 578,424 homeless individuals nationwide. Over 153,000 people are homeless on any given night. Of this total, about 42,000 are children unaccompanied by an adult. Eleven percent of all homeless adults are Veterans. (DOJ, 2)

Over 12.8 percent of the low-income housing in the US has been lost since 2001, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP). Fifty-three percent of cities surveyed by the Law Center prohibit sitting or lying down in public places and 43 percent prohibit sleeping in vehicles. (NLCHP, 14) The homeless far outnumber the amount of shelter beds available nationwide.

VA Homeless Services 

During my career, assignments included providing a Continuum of Care (CoC) program for the homeless. Many of my cities took on homelessness by offering a full-range of services to help the homeless find shelter, learn new skills, store their possessions, and find work. When my cities started the public conversation about helping the homeless, the VA quickly jumped in, offering to fund and care for homeless Veterans.

In the City of San Diego, for example, the VA partnered with the city to place a sprung shelter on an abandoned roadway during winter. The VA helped equip and staff the shelter and provided medical services and screening to get Veterans into other programs and obtain full benefits.

“The VA offers a wide array of special programs and initiatives specifically designed to help homeless veterans live as self-sufficiently and independently as possible. In fact, VA is the only Federal agency that provides substantial hands-on assistance directly to homeless persons. Although limited to veterans and their dependents, VA’s major homeless-specific programs constitute the largest integrated network of homeless treatment and assistance services in the country.”

VA Website for Homelessness

The VA offers a homeless crisis hotline to connect a Veteran with services to prevent homelessness or to find homes and needed services to help them get back on their feet. The Veteran can also seek services at their local VA medical clinic. The VA offers a variety of brochures to share with homeless Veterans to connect them with services. The brochures include ways that we can help as individuals or as a business or organization.




In a previous blog, I suggested that there are services the VA does well. Helping prevent or eliminate homelessness falls into this category. Although, there remain many homeless Veterans, the VA wants to connect with them and help. We can be a part of that by connecting each one with the VA.

No Room in the Doghouse

Miss Molly never had a doghouse, mostly because she is too big. When we first brought her home, her trainer told us to crate her at night. We purchased the largest kennel we could find. Every night while she adjusted to her new surroundings, we either shoved her from behind into the crate or tricked her inside with a treat at the far end. She rejected her new digs with a tenacity that made us question if she would adapt to our home. When her trainer visited our home, he told us her crate lacked the accommodations she needed. In other words, it was too small.

Even when working, as Molly accompanies us to restaurants, she often walks away with the table when standing up. It is just too dog-gone hard to doghouse this precious pup. Fortunately, for us, our house is large enough for the three of us. Admittedly, it is no doghouse, as I make her clean her paws and shake her tail before coming inside. After all, even homeless shelters have rules that must be obeyed! 

Post your Comments: 

Do you know a Veteran, who is homeless or about to become homeless? What will you do or what have you done to help them? Please reply below. 

Sources cited:

  • Statement of Interest filed August 6, 2015, by the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division as retrieved on August 18, 2015 at http://www.justice.gov/opa/file/643766/download.
  • “No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in US Cities.” National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP).
  • US Department of Veteran Affairs at www.va.gov/homeless/ as retrieved on August 18, 2015. 

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.