| Ander Nieuws week 48 / nieuwe oorlog 2007 |
November 9, 2007
By Steve Vogel
More than 195,800 military veterans were homeless on any given night last year, and there are "troubling" indications that many service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could face the same fate, according to a study released Thursday.
The report, from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, found that veterans make up one-quarter of the U.S. homeless population.
The report, which relied on data from Veterans Affairs facilities across the country, reflects a slight increase from previous estimates and confirms past surveys showing that former service members are much more likely to face homelessness than the rest of the population.
Although veterans make up about 11 percent of the civilian adult population, they represent 26 percent of homeless people, a figure the report calls "shockingly disproportionate."
"As a country, I think we should be shocked and concerned that [nearly] 200,000 veterans don't have a place to go," said Stacey Stewart, former president and chief executive of the Fannie Mae Foundation, which announced a $200,000 grant Thursday to build housing for veterans. "Shouldn't those who served their country be better served by the society that benefited from their service?"
The problem could grow worse with the return of many troops from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries, conditions that put them at high risk for homelessness, the report says.
The VA has said 45 percent of homeless veterans have some kind of mental illness, including many with PTSD.
On a recent day in Philadelphia, case managers from Project H.O.M.E. and the VA picked up William Joyce, 60, a homeless Vietnam veteran in a wheelchair who said he'd been sleeping at a bus terminal.
"You're an honorable veteran. You're going to get some services," outreach worker Mark Salvatore told Joyce. "You don't need to be out here on the streets."
The nightly total number of homeless veterans in 2006, 195,827, represents an increase of 0.8 percent from the 194,254 in 2005 but a sharp decline from the estimated 250,000 a decade ago.
The decline may reflect the passing of the country's aging veteran population. Nationwide there are 23.4 million veterans, of whom almost 1 percent are homeless on any given night, said Mary Cunningham, director of the alliance's Homelessness Research Institute.
Homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.
Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.
"We're going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental-health toll from this war is enormous," said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa.
While services to homeless veterans have improved in the past 20 years, advocates say more financial resources still are needed. With the spotlight on the plight of Iraq veterans, they hope more will be done to prevent homelessness and provide affordable housing to the younger veterans while there's a window of opportunity.
"When the Vietnam War ended, that was part of the problem. The war was over, it was off TV, nobody wanted to hear about it," said John Keaveney, a Vietnam veteran and a founder of New Directions in Los Angeles, which provides job training, shelter and other help to veterans.
"I think they'll be forgotten," Keaveney said of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. "People get tired of it."
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.
Copyright (c) 2007 The Seattle Times Company
A study released Thursday shows the rates of homelessness among military veterans in 2006.
Homeless veterans nationwide: 195,827
California: Highest number of homeless veterans: 49,724, or 2.26 percent of vets in the state.
Vermont: Lowest number of homeless vets: 30, or 0.03 percent of the state's vets.
Washington: 6,800, or 1.04 percent of vets in the state.
A review last year of the nearly 39,000 veterans who participated in the Veterans Affairs Department's homeless programs found:
4.9 percent served before the Vietnam War.
42.5 percent served during the Vietnam War.
41.9 percent served after Vietnam and before the Persian Gulf War.
10.6 percent served after the Persian Gulf War began, including veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
© The Associated Press, The Washington Post
| Ander Nieuws week 48 / nieuwe oorlog 2007 |