How is it possible that the word homeless can be used to describe a Veteran’s state of existence. How can we, as a nation, allow our veterans to come home and then abandon them. Don’t they deserve a little extra attention. After all, these are the men and women who not so long ago, or maybe long ago, were “over there” protecting our freedom. They are the ones who faced enemy gunfire, IEDs, death and disease. They are the ones who left body parts on the battle fields in wars and police actions including world wars, Korea, Viet Nam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, and more. And how do we welcome them back and show our gratitude? Sorry kid, there is no job for you. Why are so many veterans jobless and eventually homeless? Consider the following.
- There are 21.8 million veterans in the United States
- There are approximately 50,000 homeless veterans in the United States.
- On any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S.
- Approx. 33% of homeless men in the U.S. are veterans.
- Veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless.
- Veterans represent 11% of the adult civilian population, but 26% of the homeless population, according to the Homeless Research Institute (2007).
- Veterans are more at risk of becoming homeless than non-veterans
- The number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans, male and female, is greater than the number of soldiers who died during the war.
Primary causes of homelessness among veterans are:
- Lack of income due to limited education and lack of transferable skills from military to civilian life (especially true of younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan)
- Combat-related physical health issues and disabilities
- Combat-related mental health issues and disabilities
- Substance abuse problems that interfere with job retention
- Weak social networks due to problems adjusting to civilian life
These are very depressing statistics and we as a nation owe it to our veterans to turn this around. We must insist that returning veterans are given every opportunity to receive medical care, job training, and first priority on jobs. Some folks find it difficult to understand why a Vet should get job priority? Simply put, because they deserve it. They stepped up, they put on the uniform, they went out on the battlefield, and they sacrificed for our freedom. They deserve it. We need to reach out and do all that we can to help. Donate money, volunteer time, write your representatives, whatever it takes. If you are not sure how, Google “Homeless Veteran” and a wealth of information will be provided. They did their part, now we need to do ours.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
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I’m afraid that’s always been the way. We give a lot of lip service to vets. We talk about how great they are. But for may of them, when it comes to helping them with problems endemic to what they’ve been through, we turn away. As if to say, “What have you done for me lately?”
It’s a sad thing, really. The average person just can not wrap their head around what a Veteran has faced in combat. I have to disagree with the idea of non-transferrable skills. Anyone that has served has learned leadership, discipline, how to work as a team and so much more. These skills may not directly transfer, but what they do transfer into is a person that is able to keep on going when others complain. Veterans are tough and can handle any situation. Teach them something, and they will be your best employee. After all, how hard is an office job to a Veteran, when they have slept and crawled in the mud, learned to sleep through gunfire, and learned to awaken into an intense alertness at a moments notice.
It’s all about a change in mindset. These people should be given every opportunity. A free education should be mandatory.