“You walk around in the woods looking for homeless people? Why would you do that?”

by Victoria Spitler, MSW, Case Manager, Supportive Services for Veteran Families, Schuylkill County.

Whenever I’m asked that question, the answer is always easy; because people really live there. Veterans, individuals with mental illness or substance abuse–they all deserve our help.Homeless encampment in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

Rural Homelessness In Schuylkill County

Through the Schuylkill County street outreach conducted by myself, and my co-workers Rachael from Servants to All and Shawn from SAM, we explore areas of the woods or other abandoned areas in search of homeless individuals who may be in need of services. This is an important part of the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program to reach homeless Veterans who are living on the streets or in the woods and may not be able to access services.

When I first started working for the SSVF program in Schuylkill County, we had a Veteran who was challenging to house. He travelled from state park to state park, sleeping in his vehicle or a tent in the woods. After experiencing medical issues, this veteran agreed it secure housing. He moved in to an apartment, and SSVF was able to assist him in obtaining items necessary to live comfortably.

The Scars of Homeless Linger

During routine case management, I asked the Veteran how he was adjusting to his new apartment. His answer was humbling; the clanking from the radiators heating up annoyed him, until he related that to the sound of rain splashing off his tent. The noise from the neighbors walking in the hallway would annoy him, until he related that to the sounds of small woodland animals walking by his tent in the night. But the biggest moment of relief was when it snowed and he was warmed by radiators rather than using two large candles to stay warm on a cold winters night.

Individuals live on the streets and in other abandoned areas. They need our help. If you are aware of a homeless veteran or any homeless individual in Schuylkill County, please call us at 570-604-6948!