Earlier this month we recognized Veterans Day, a day to honor all veterans, past and present, from all branches of the military. At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, I attended the annual West Seneca Veterans Day Ceremony, and one day prior to the holiday, Erie County unveiled the new Purple Heart County signs that recognize those injured or killed in combat. These were both nice events, but what is most important on Veterans Day is to ensure we are supporting our veterans in their everyday lives.
Unfortunately, enough isn’t being done for our veterans. Statistics show that suicide and homelessness rates are much higher for veterans than the civilian population. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, veterans make up 23 percent of the homeless population, which is nearly three times the average of the civilian homeless population. One report showed that nationally, 22 veterans are committing suicide daily. The suicide rate among recent veterans is 50 percent higher than for civilians.
Locally we have outreaches for veterans, and I believe there are many professionals who are dedicated to addressing the problem and are working hard to bring these resources to veterans. However, there is always room for improvement and we can start by working together to ensure that veterans know where to turn for help.
Erie County partners with several agencies to help local veterans. If you are a veteran who needs help, please call the County’s Veterans Service Agency at 858-6363 or visit www.erie.gov/veterans where you can find information and links to assistance. Another service is the Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York, located at 1280 Main St. in Buffalo, which houses numerous onsite service providers. As the name describes, the center provides veterans with access to a variety of programs and services under one roof. You can learn more at http://vocwny.org.
Our veterans fought to protect our country and freedoms, something that following the attacks in Paris feels greatly threatened. After confirming at least one of these despicable individuals was a Syrian refugee, I released a statement that I believe the risk to our community is far too great to accept Syrian refugees. We must do everything we can to protect the citizens of Erie County and Western New York. I have called for a hearing to discuss Erie County being marked to receive upwards of 300 refugees and hope to have that scheduled as soon as possible.
I encourage anyone who is looking for assistance to please contact my office at 858-8922 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you feel that help isn’t available, I will be happy to assist you in making the connections needed.