I write today as the newest member of the dedicated Give US Your Poor team. My name is Andrea Locke and I am joining as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. Before I started last month I had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta, GA for AmeriCorps orientation. On my way to Atlanta it felt so appropriate that as I flipped through the Delta Sky Magazine that I would come upon an article with the opening sentence: “In 2013, Pew Research Center ranked 10 occupational groups by perceived value to society. Not surprisingly, the military topped the list, with 78 percent of U.S. adults saying that America’s armed forces contribute ‘a lot’ to the country’s well-being.”
This is great news, but as Chris Clayton’s article titled “Opening Doors” continues, it highlights the disconnect between what he calls ‘our cheerleading and the reality facing many military members and veterans.’ Clayton chose to focus his article on the problems and solutions for veterans transitioning back to civilian life by way of employment. Raising our attention to staggering figures such as the 722,000 unemployed veterans in the U.S. in 2013, the 9% unemployment rate among veterans having served from September 2001 to today, and the 250,000 service members that enter civilian life each year.
I acknowledged the severity of these figures as I flew South over New York and the Appalachian Mountains. However, it also made me think ahead to my upcoming start at Give US Your Poor and another subset of veterans returning home. Those coming home to their country, yes, but not home to a roof over their heads. In 2013 there were 50,000 homeless veterans on any given night, and 29 of every 10,000 veterans are homeless. All hope is not lost, in 2009 the Obama Administration committed to ending veteran homelessness in the U.S. by the end of 2015. And since 2010 the number of homeless veterans has gone down by 33%. I am looking forward to my new role at Give US Your Poor and dedicating myself to ending veteran homelessness once and for all; by putting every soldier (society’s number one valued occupation) coming home to the U.S. into a home of brick and mortar.
The orientation was a great success and truly instilled a sense of pride in all of us as VISTAs, as Volunteers In Service To America, with the overarching goal of eradicating poverty. I have also learned valuable tools and connections to hit the ground running now that I am back in Boston.
Prior to dedicating myself to Give US Your Poor I grew up in Upstate New York on Seneca Lake. I continued on to study history & political science at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC. Most recently, I graduated with a Master’s of Science in European Affairs from Lund University in southern Sweden. More personally, I love being outdoors, hiking, and exploring, whether that be internationally or around the block. Having just moved to Boston I have a lot of exploring to do on the weekends!
I am looking forward to making meaningful connections with all of you in the coming months. Feel free to contact me anytime.