Sr. Stephanie Matcha, ND, Shares Her Experiences Working with Homeless Veterans

By Sr. Stephanie Matcha, ND

What Veterans Day Means to Sr. Stephanie

I have always considered Veterans Day one of the biggest holidays of the year.  It is a day to honor and show respect and gratitude to our military heroes for their bravery, patriotism, dedication to our nation, and their readiness to endanger their lives to protect our freedoms.

Challenges Veterans Face and Veteran Backgrounds

My first exposure to the challenges faced by veterans occurred during my time as a case manager at the Siena Francis House Homeless Shelter. The homeless veterans I worked with represented various branches of the military and had served in conflicts such as Somalia, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Korea. It became evident that every veteran carries the impact of their military service.

The transition from military life to civilian life can be an exceptionally demanding period for veterans. Rediscovering their purpose, creating a meaningful path through employment, education, and service is of utmost importance. The struggles in this transition phase can lead to significant issues, including depression and homelessness stemming from unemployment. Conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, illnesses resulting from toxic exposure, and other injuries can appear years later, affecting veterans at any stage of life. Combat veterans, in particular, experience higher rates of suicide and severe health problems due to their exceptional experiences.

The ever-evolving nature of veterans’ benefits and policies can make navigating the system challenging. It requires knowledge, persistence, and time to grasp what’s available and the requirements for filing claims correctly, which can cause extreme stress. Beyond mental health and economic challenges, veterans also face numerous social issues upon their return. Reconnecting with their families, children, and communities presents complex difficulties. Often, it’s hard for others, including loved ones, to fully comprehend their experiences. Being part of a community implies sharing emotions, something many veterans aren’t prepared for. They often require a period of decompression upon returning home, alongside individuals who can truly empathize with their journey.

Due to my deep respect for veterans, my role as a case manager was an honor, allowing me to assist them in securing employment, housing, and connecting them with resources through our local Veteran Agencies that address their mental, physical, and financial challenges. While the Veterans Administration aided over 20 million veterans last year, it is important for each of us to contribute by supporting and expressing gratitude to our veterans for their dedicated service.

What Sr. Stephanie Does to Serve Veterans

Presently, I assist homebound, disabled veterans who live in veteran apartment facilities by providing them with rides to medical appointments, food pantries and veteran events. Because many are on fixed incomes I provide them with food, clothes, and personal items as needed.

Before Veterans Day I assist the Bellevue University Military Center staff and volunteers in making bags filled with clothes, personal supplies, snacks which are distributed on Veterans Day to the Siena Francis House homeless Veterans and New Visions Veterans.

I continue to assist the Siena Francis House Homeless Shelter with the Veterans Day Celebration honoring the homeless Veterans.  I especially have enjoyed coordinating the Veterans Day Event for the homeless veterans at the Siena Francis House to let veterans know they are appreciated and to thank them for their service.