Veteran’s Day: Our Heroes, Our Homeless

November 11, 2007

Who are homeless veterans?

The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says the nation’s homeless veterans are mostly males. The majority are single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities, 45% suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems. They have served in every war from the second World War to Iraq.

How many homeless veterans are there?

The VA estimates that nearly 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And nearly 400,000 experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country.

Why are veterans homeless?

In addition to the complex set of factors affecting all homelessness — extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income, and access to health care — a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse, compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.

Doesn’t the Department of Veterans Affairs take care of homeless veterans?

With an estimated 400,000 veterans homeless at some time during the year, the VA reaches 25% of those in need. For more information about VA homeless veteran programs, go to www.va.gov/homeless/.

What services do veterans need?

Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing and nutritional meals; essential physical health care, substance abuse aftercare and mental health counseling; and personal development and empowerment. Veterans also need job assessment, training and placement assistance.

The solution?

I don’t know. More government money, more private charity, and more awareness would be a start. But on a personal level, I think the first step is just keeping in mind when you see the homeless on our streets that many of them fought for our country.  I also think this is a cause that organized religion really can and often does step up for.  I know personally, my church and the Catholic church in general does a lot to help the plight of the homeless.