Monday, July 23, 2007

Homeless Veterans

This last weekend I participated in a Motorcycle poker run which was organized to provide funds for Homeless Veterans. I really did not know the scope if the issue with homeless veterans and always assumed that veterans were a cross section in society and were homeless at the same rate as everyone else.

I decided to read into the issue and found the statistics a little discomforting as a soldier and thought I’d share some with you in the hopes that we all work to never leave a former soldier behind. From the Veteran’s Administration site (

The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says the nation's homeless veterans are mostly males (4 % are females). The vast majority are single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities, 45% suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems. America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, or the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America.

23% of homeless population are veterans
33% of male homeless population are veterans
47% Vietnam Era
17% post Vietnam
15% pre Vietnam
67% served three or more years
33% stationed in war zone
25% have used VA Homeless Services
85% completed high school/GED compared to 56% of non-veterans
89% received Honorable Discharge
79% reside in central cities
16% reside in suburban areas
5% reside in rural areas
76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems
46% white males compared to 34% non-veterans
46% age 45 or older compared to 20% non-veterans
Service needs:
45% help finding job
37% finding housing

In these statistics one out of every three homeless men has worn a uniform and served this country. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Urban Institute, 1999 provides that roughly 1 in 4 of all homeless people in America are veterans.

As a former soldier these statistics tell me that we have former brothers and sisters that served that need our help. The statistics bear out that we may not be doing enough for some veterans. The VA has some programs to assist veterans, but are they adequate for the surge that will follow the latest war…. I don’t know – at the moment I do a little bit – if all of us veterans did the same I know we would be following the soldier creed – I will never leave a fallen comrade - and perhaps we can make a difference.


Anonymous said...

in our community, there is a large VA medical center. recently they built a very large domicillary for homeless vets on the grounds 500 feet from the hospital.

the vets can live free at the facility IF they agree to the following: no substance abuse and if they are a substance abuser, they must agree to get appropriate counseling at the VA and stay sober. next, they must enroll in occupational therapy classes and acquire a skill to become employed (so that they are not homeless forever). this is not short-term; they have 2 years to complete the program.

on the average, 10 of the 70 rooms are inhabited and the turnover rate of the population is huge because they refuse to or cannot maintain sobriety or classes.

not all homeless vets are homeless as a result of their military service (less than 10% of the homeless vets at this domicillary have any service-connected disability). except for their years in the service, these people would in all likelihood have been homeless anyway. military service did not make them single, poor, or disadvantaged, nor is it likely that their mental illnesses or substance abuse problems are a result of their service. on the contrary, after their military service, these vets had every opportunity to utilize the benefits provided to all veterans and -- for whatever reason -- they didn't succeed. the larger than average percentage of vets in the homeless population only speaks to their seeing the military as a refuge (albeit temporary) from the ills that plagued them before their service.

of course we are grateful for their service; however, neither society as a whole nor the VA as an entity can cure all societal ills -- and military service for some period of time (2 years? 4 years?) should not entitle them to lifestyle subsidy for a lifetime.

thank you for blogging on this and thank you for the time and effort in attempting to alleviate some of the suffering of these people -- who just happened to have served.

and is the VA doing enough to prepare for a surge? first they need to help the wounded: more beds, more counselors, more PTSD teams, more doctors, better trained raters... but resources are finite and the line must be drawn somewhere (VA funds should not be diverted to veterans who will not help themselves.

wanderingvet said...

I would love to know where this location is so that I may go see it and view it in all of its magnificence. Actually I think it is cruel and unusual punishment that a GI cannot go out and have a beer personally. Now if he is an alcoholic is one thing, but of course 3 beers is an alcoholic according to many. It seems once a homeless vet comes in from the streets he is revoked of his civil and human rights. He is debased and made to feel like an invalid or second class. As an economically disenfranchised (due to a service related medical illness), highly educated, former officer, and very independant, homeless veteran, I take serious offense to your statement. Your statements make that shelter sound more like a place of INCARCERATION. To keep this blog short as possible follow this link. This is my site where I post to. on this subject and many others

wanderingvet said...

Personally LTC Smith,
I think you need to moderate your thoughts there troop. If the boots were on your feet, and you were faced being that troop. Would you enjoy living as a non human, living in a ward like enviroment, being monitored where sobriety includes not one single drink. Where bed time is a curfew. Lights out means you have to be in bed and no reading even by flashlight. No wonder people leave. It gives me the willies thinking about it. Personally I live under the stars in a tent in New Mexico. I go to town and as you can read in my blogs I live adequately well. I have applications for federal jobs and help train other homeless vets as well. Spirits and dreams do get broken. There are places where the VA does not have super hotels like you describe. But to treat veterans like convicts is so inhumane it is criminal. There should be a one chance rule for men to be true. Not like here you are former SFC now ten year old in my care. You can have a kool aid for dinner not a beer. You are a baby not a man now. There is a flaw in the system.