A newly released Orange County Community Foundation / USC study finds many veterans, especially combat veterans, in Orange County face major challenges when adjusting to civilian life.
“The state of the American Veteran: The Orange County Veterans Study,” was conducted by the USC School of Social Work Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families. The Orange County Community Foundation helped commission the study.
In the study, 1227 veterans were surveyed. Of those 1227, 61 percent of post 9/11 veterans reported having difficulty adjusting to civilian life.
Seventy-four percent did not have a job when they left the military, and 44 percent of veterans screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It took a long, long time for my PTSD to really just start causing a lot of problems,” said Stephen Young, a 32-year-old former Marine who served in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.
After returning home, Young found himself among the nearly 1,400 homeless veterans in Orange County.
Young, like half of the veterans surveyed in the study, had no idea where to go for help.
One nonprofit called the Orange County Rescue Mission is helping veterans in similar situations as Young. The Mission formed a veteran outreach team that hits the streets each week to search for veterans in need.
“About a year ago we realized that the number of vets on the streets was growing dramatically, and that we couldn’t rely on the federal government to solve the problems,” said Jim Palmer, president of the rescue mission.
Rob Jewel head the Mission’s outreach team. The 32-year-old Air Force veteran said he knows what other veterans are going through because he went through the same experience.
“I had no idea what I was in for,” Jewel said. “I ended up working at a call center for $9 an hour and sleeping in my car.”
Jewel said so far 200 veterans have received services and counseling. Some have been invited to live at the Mission’s Village of Hope.
In several months, the nonprofit plans to offer additional housing to more than 30 veterans after it finishes renovating two buildings that were purchased from the city of Tustin.
Young credits the Mission for putting a roof over his head and his accounting degree is also being put to use at the nonprofit.
“They really helped change my life,” he said.
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