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Symposium: Crisis facing homeless veterans

Military and Psychology Experts Discussed the Next Step in the Fight Against Homelessness and For Reintegration of Veterans Back Into Civilian Life.

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) recently hosted the symposium,“What Does the End of Veterans’ Homelessness Look Like: Innovative Solutions for Reintegrating Returning Veterans,” at Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles. More than 150 civic leaders, social workers and other professionals attended the event, which concludes the thought-leadership series hosted by The Chicago School in honor of its 35th anniversary. Designed to spark a national conversation about mental health solutions, the leadership series consisted of three events, the results of which will be compiled in a report entitled No Health without Mental Health scheduled to be released in the fall of 2015.

The Los Angeles symposium concluded by emphasizing the need for more comprehensive outreach programs involving local governmental agencies and nonprofits; increasing the pace of building and providing more housing for homeless vets; disseminating informational materials more effectively; and providing free and easy phone access to obtain information on how to find help.

The keynote speaker was Stephen J. Peck, M.S.W., president and CEO, U.S.VETS. Peck is a recognized authority on veteran homelessness. U.S.VETS has provided housing, employment and counseling services to veterans for more than 20 years. The organization operates 11 facilities throughout the country including in Inglewood, Long Beach, and the Inland Empire.

“Every veteran in this country deserves a place to live,” said Mr. Peck. “The Chicago School gathered an exceptional panel of experts who have been battling veteran homelessness for decades.  Our objective was to chart ways to assist their transition to a self-sufficient lifestyle by helping them deal with the challenges after military service.”

“We have a vested interest in improving the lives of our veterans, who deserve the best care and services,” explained Michele Nealon, Psy.D., president of The Chicago School.

“By bringing experts together for a frank conversation, we hope we can move into actionable items over the coming year. Our students are already on the frontlines providing assessment and psychotherapy services to veterans to help them resettle with their families and society.”

Dr. Nealon moderated the panel of distinguished professionals who discussed the unique mental, physical, and employment needs of veterans as they reintegrate back into their communities. Special focus was on homelessness, with Los Angeles having the nation’s highest number of homeless vets—more than 4,000.

The panelists included Claudia Owens Shields, Ph.D., department chair, Clinical Psychology, Los Angeles Campus of The Chicago School; Mark C. Russell, Ph.D., APPB, director, Institute of War Stress Injury, Recovery and Social Justice, Antioch University; and Jonathan Sherin, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for Military Communities, chief medical officer, Volunteers of America.