Homeless Vets

The Watchful Babbler has a post up about the emergence of homeless GWOT vets. I certainly agree that we owe these folks a lot and should do all we can to help all of our veterans, but I can’t help but wonder about the veracity of some of these claims. Given what we know about manpower shortages and how tours of duty are being extended, it just doesn’t make sense that there would be too many folks in this state quite yet (the article does state that national advocates have seen only “about 70” homeless so far). Unfortunately, with our laws being what they are, if someone is mentally ill enough that they ‘want’ to be homeless there’s nothing that can be done about it, so any furor about the government “not doing enough” to help these poor folks is 90% posturing. While I certainly will donate to the charities Babs highlights, the fascist theocrat humanitarian in me wishes more there was a way to ensure that the people who needed mental help got it.

5 Responses to “Homeless Vets”

  1. Nightfly says:

    I don’t want this to be a problem for anyone, especially vets; but is the problem this bad? A quarter of a million homeless is a large number already – to quote that many veterans homeless sort of sets off the Bravo Sierra alarm, even if the number comes from the VA.
    It also occurs to me that this agency they quote, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, is itself part of the nation’s response – just not the government’s response. For the veterans it ought to be the government (I don’t say that about too much!). Still, it’s healthy (and gratifying) to see 3rd party groups stepping into the gap. That’s exactly what a good society ought to do.

  2. WatchfulBabbler says:

    The AER is even part of the government’s response — when you donate to it, the funds go to unit commanders for disbursement amongst needy families. (I need to check if the funds also go to the Reserves and/or National Guard.)

    I can certainly believe a quarter of a million homeless nationwide — Dallas, which is not a major homeless destination, has around six thousand homeless (as per the latest police census), and out of the ones I’ve spent time talking to, at least a third (around a dozen or so) claim, with plausibility, to be vets. (Many have their DD-214s, for example.) It’s really tough when you see a guy who looks to be a hard sixty-five (but who’s really in his forties) who’s kept a service photo of himself as a young, well-groomed E-5.

    Vets are actually a more at-risk population than average civilians; they tend to have fewer support structures when they leave their service, don’t have any real idea of how to work in the civilian world, and often don’t have skills that translate well into the civilian economy. The only thing I can compare it to are people leaving prison after an extended sentence. Vets are at highest risk when they first leave the service, so it’s not surprising that GWOT and Iraq vets are showing up in the streets. (Not that I, or any of the homeless advocates I speak to, have met any in Dallas yet.)

    One thing that puts these recent vets at even higher risk is that many of them have service-related physical and mental disabilities for which disability pay is not enough compensation. (The VA also has a nasty habit of trying to diagnose combat PTSD as non-service-related psychological disorders.)

    The worst thing about this is that there’s no reason for these vets to end up on the streets, but once they spend some time homeless, it’s hard to break the psychological cycle that keeps them there. The best time to help them is when they first get out — and these groups seem to be worthy organizations.

  3. Mr. Bingley says:

    I guess that some of them also are just so used to having a highly structured life, and when they get out (your allusion to folks leaving prison is especially apt) if they are lacking a supportive family they are just at loose ends.

  4. Nightfly says:

    Thanks, Watchful. I knew that if the numbers were legit there would be a reasonable explanation, which you’ve given.
    Besides, I’d thought that Clinton had solved the homeless problem forever, judging from the sudden cessation of news reports in ’93.

  5. tampajeff says:

    Forgive me for being jaundiced, but as long as the homeless issue is used as a club to beat conservatives I will be skeptical of any numbers published.
    I would wager hard American currency that half the homeless guys claiming to be Viet vets are lying about it. (Yes Virginia, drug addicts and alcoholics lie. How do I know? In the words of Kenny Chesney, “I’ve been there, that’s why I’m here.”)
    I encounter the homeless all the time, only to have them turn down any assistance save cash. There is plenty of help for the homeless in Tampa, as long as they are willing to give up their (expletive deleted) jones.
    Nothing pisses me off more than having my compassion exploited.

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