Veteran Homelessness

Far too many veterans are homeless in America—between 130,000 and 200,000 on any given night. 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.

Homeless Veterans face several physical and mental challenges such as injuries, addictions, brain injuries from IED’s (improvised explosive device), repeated deployments, depression, and post-traumatic stress. All Veterans at the risk of homelessness or attempting to come out of homelessness have access to a variety of resources and benefits through government organizations. However, the kind of stress and emotional issues they face is unimaginable as a common citizen of United States of America. Unemployment for young veterans is twenty percent, double the national average. That makes the transition back from war even more difficult.

One of the veterans, John B. King Jr served federal government for 35 years. He became homeless after losing his house. He was reported saying, “I want to sit down and cry… What else can I do” when asked to share his thoughts on what Veterans Day meant to him.

Another veteran turned homeless, Keith Michael Robinson suffered from post- traumatic stress disorder and accepted that he had been too proud to ask for help.  Tim Ferrell, who spent a long time in Afghanistan is unable to put his life back together and finds solace in alcohol alone.

Jose Pagan, a decorated veteran who served United States of America in Iraq and Afghanistan believes homelessness is embarrassing. “Honor, pride, duty, loyalty, all these things that we have- that kick in as a soldier, you know. And then to find yourself living on park benches is heart breaking” he said.

Paul Rieckhoff, Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America says, “I think even if there’s one (Homeless Veteran), it should be a national outrage”.

So many of us come back broken. Come back, you know mentally broken, physically broken,” Fuller said.

“I think we have to do a better job of ensuring that all soldiers, not just those that are seriously wounded, are informed of the services that are available to them and so none of them leave the service and find themselves in a situation where they have nowhere to live,” the Vice Chief of the Army General Peter Chiarelli told ABC “This Week” anchor Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview Sunday.

“I had quite a time the first year I was back. I drank heavily,” Dailey added. “I had the war in my head. I couldn’t get it out of my head.”

“My way of thinking is I think everybody should do some service for their country because it builds your character, kind of teaches you to interact with other people cause you’re forced to live with other people all the time,” Nelson said. “Once you’re a veteran, you’re always a veteran. They can never take that away from you.”

Montag said in his oral history recording. “I had nightmares all the time. I went to talk to a counselor about that. It’s very tough to come to terms with combat itself and taking another man’s life or someone trying to take yours.

“I wouldn’t change anything,” Chambers said. “I know a lot of bad stuff has happened, but I’m very proud of everything I did.”

“There’s a lot of, lot of break down and dysfunction within families, you know, after someone has served,” Black said. “I think serving in the military has a lot of psychological effects on you, and really challenges you in an emotional way to be able to then go back into civilian life and be able to manage, whether it’s just being able to get along with your family or being able to be like in a workplace . Or other just challenges of trying to kind of, this is how you live in civilian world and this is how you live in military world.”

Nick Holt, Certified Cognitive Behavioral  Therapist in West Los Angeles identified certain personality traits of Homeless Veterans after working very closely with them.

  1. Veterans find it hard to trust another person and avoid intimate or connected relationships with others.
  2. Their interactions with loves ones are often assumed to be critical, punishing, judgmental and humiliating.
  1. Veterans have faced enormous challenges, yet they are humorous, playful, and creative.
  2. They focus on the moment and never complain about life.
  3. They demonstrate bravery, resilience, and hopefulness in difficult situations.

In all, 50% of vets with a history of homelessness suffer from severe mental illness, according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Nobody knows why re-joining back the mainstream life becomes a challenge for Veterans. Maybe, they have experienced life and death so closely that a part of their mind completely shuts off.

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